'Our hearts are broken' - family's devastation as Michaela (9) laid to rest
The father of tragic Dublin girl Michaela Gonda carried her funeral coffin just days after trying to save her life during a swimming lesson.
Mike and Yvonne Gonda were embraced by friends at the Requiem Mass for their daughter (9) in Saggart, Co Dublin.
Heartbroken Mr Gonda carried the white coffin of Michaela who died on Friday despite his frantic efforts when he plunged into a swimming pool in Tallaght to lift her from the water.
A large crowd, including several families from the Filipino community, filled the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the funeral of the popular young schoolgirl.
Fr Aidan Kieran said her heartbroken parents and loved ones will miss "her smile, her laugh, her kisses, her voice".
"Our hearts are broken...a bright light, Michaela, was taken from us and our world became a darker place," he said.
He paid tribute to the courage of Michaela who had suffered from a heart condition.
Loud sobs and the sound of children crying filled the air as Mr Gonda and his friends carried the coffin from the church into the bright sunshine.
A guard of honour from the National Ambulance Service escorted the coffin. Mrs Gonda works as an accident and emergency nurse at Saint James's Hospital in Dublin and many of the staff sympathised with Michaela's mourning parents.
Guards of honour were provided by Michaela's school friends from the nearby Saggart National School. Track-suited members of the Pulse Triathlon Club and Dublin Bay Running Club also provided guards of honour, as Mr Gonda is a member of both clubs.
A lone piper from Dublin Fire Brigade played a heart-rending version of Welsh hymn Suo Gan, which means "sleep my baby".
Michaela was having a swimming lesson at the Tallaght Community School Sports Complex in Balrothery, Co Dublin, when she fell ill on Friday evening.
Her devastated father spoke at the weekend of his efforts to save his only child.
"She was at her swimming class and myself and my wife Yvonne were watching her. She was calling, 'Mammy, look at me' and 'Daddy, can you see me swimming?' and we were watching her," he said.
"Then she disappeared and we couldn't see her anymore. My wife asked, 'Where's Michaela?' and I ran over to the pool where I saw her underwater. I jumped into the pool to save her. I would do anything for her."
He said efforts were made to resuscitate her at the pool.
She was transferred to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin where she was pronounced dead.
He said she was a happy, loving, smart child who "loved singing, swimming, cycling, dancing".
He said she was born with a heart problem and underwent two operations during her life. She had heart surgery as a baby and again two years ago.