Families 'shocked' at couple's death on their honeymoon
The families of a newly-wed couple who drowned while on honeymoon in South Africa have spoken of their shock and sorrow at the tragedy.
John Rodgers (28) and his wife Lynette (26) died on Friday after getting caught in a rip tide at Plettenberg Bay - just six days after they walked down the aisle.
In a joint statement their families said they had been left devastated.
"It has come as a great shock to both the Reilly and Rodgers families to learn of the sudden and tragic events in South Africa, which has taken the lives of Lynette and John.
"Our happiness in sharing their recent wedding has been thoroughly devastated. Both were very dearly loved and brought us great joy."
The body of Mr Rodgers was discovered in shallow surf on Robberg Beach by a local man at around 6pm on Friday, South Africa's National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said.
His wife's body was found around 200 metres away along the same beach, the institute said.
Doctors performed CPR on the couple but they were pronounced dead.
Their relatives have requested privacy to grieve.
"We would now ask that our families' privacy be respected and we are left in peace," the statement added.
North Down DUP MLA Gordon Dunne, who knows the family, said the close-knit Co Down community would rally round to provide support.
He said: "I am very shocked and saddened by the tragic news of the death of this young couple on their honeymoon in South Africa.
"This is an absolutely tragedy and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family of both the young man and young lady who have sadly passed away. For a tragedy like this to happen days after their wedding during their honeymoon is beyond words.
"There is widespread shock and a real sense of numbness within the local community in Holywood at this time, particularly as the young lady was born in Holywood, attended the local schools in the area, and was from a very well-respected family.
"My heart goes out to the grieving families and I trust and pray that the family may know God's help at this tragic time."
Lynette, a physiotherapist from Holywood Co Down, and John, an office worker from Ballygowan, also in Co Down, tied the knot in front of family and friends at the First Presbyterian Church, Holywood, last Saturday.
In poignant messages posted on Facebook Mrs Rodgers conveyed her excitement ahead of her South African adventure.
She had changed her cover photo to a picture of her and her four smiling bridesmaids and thanked loved ones for coming to her wedding.
She wrote: "John and myself would like to thank to everyone that joined us on Saturday and for all the well wishes!
"We greatly appreciate it and had the best day ever. Heading off today so will speak to everyone when we return! Xx"
Meanwhile, prayers have been said for the tragic honeymooners at the church where they exchanged vows little over a week ago.
Addressing almost 200 parishioners, many of whom had known the 26-year-old bride since she was a child, the minister told of their immense heartache at a "terrible loss".
Afterwards people huddled together in small groups, speaking in hushed tones about their shock.
One man said: "It is so tragic, these are just terrible circumstances."