Belfast Telegraph

Friends who died after vehicle swept away in river were 'inseparable'

Two agricultural workers who died after their vehicle was swept away in a flooded river on Christmas Day were inseparable, a relative said.

Childhood friends Declan Davitt, 26, and Martin Needham, 27, were in the 4x4 when it entered the Carrowniskey River in Co Mayo in the far west of Ireland in the early hours of the morning.

Their families said they were heartbroken while friends described feeling numbed.

Mr Davitt's relation Peter Sweeney said: "The boys were inseparable."

They were returning after a night socialising with friends and were crossing a stretch of water near Louisburgh that had become swollen in bad weather. There were gale force winds and water levels were high.

Initial reports suggested the vehicle became submerged as it crossed the river and was then carried downstream. How the tragedy happened is the subject of a Garda investigation and post-mortem examinations took place on Tuesday.

Another man, aged 19, managed to escape and raised the alarm at around 3am.

The dead men's bodies were found on Monday afternoon after a major search operation involving Garda divers and the Coastguard.

They had been friends for years and worked for a period in New Zealand. They were both single but had large family circles who are well-known in the area, a relative said.

Mr Sweeney said they were both involved in agricultural work.

The two men's funerals will be held later this week.

Public notices said they would be deeply mourned by their "heartbroken" families.

Mr Davitt was the son of Walter and Mary. He had a brother Christopher and sisters Mary and Patricia.

His funeral will be held on Friday at the Church of the Holy Family, Killeen.

Mr Needham is survived by his parents Pat-Joe and Breege. He leaves sisters Olivia, Patricia, Catriona and Elaine.

His funeral will be held on Thursday at the same church.

The Louisburgh Macra Na Feirme, a rural youth organisation, said it was an "unbelievably numbing day today (Monday) as we learned that these two fine men tragically were lost in an accident last night.

"Two valued members since the beginning since re-establishing."

Mayo county councillor Christy Hyland said the victims were from well-known and respected families in the area.

Colm Clarke, chairman of the local Macra Na Feirme, said everyone's world had been shattered.

"Two sound men, thick as thieves, lived most of their lives in each other's pockets.

"Where you would see one the other was never far away, as tragically was the case."

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