Community left with 'numbing sadness' by death of childhood pals
Mourners at the funeral of one of two young farm workers who drowned on Christmas Day were told that a tight-knit rural community has been left with "numbing sadness" by their deaths.
Childhood friends Martin Needham (27) and Declan Davitt (26), both of Louisburgh, died when their 4x4 vehicle was swept away by the swollen Carrowniskey river in Co Mayo.
A 19-year-old friend managed to escape and raise the alarm at 3am.
Mourners at Mr Needham's funeral were yesterday told that the recovery of the bodies just as light was fading on Christmas Day brought "a tiny glimmer of relief" to their families.
"We all know the sound of a phone ringing in the small hours of the morning is rarely the bringer of good news," Fr Martin Long told the congregation at the Church of the Holy Family, Killeen.
"But when our phones rang early on Christmas morning we knew instinctively it couldn't be good news. Sadly, for the Needham family and the Davitt family, it brought the worst possible news.
"As phones rang throughout the parish that morning as word spread, a light was extinguished. We walked in darkness."
Fr Long paid tribute to the emergency services, and to those neighbours and friends who went to the scene of the accident to see if they could help.
Both men drowned as they tried to cross the Carrowniskey near Lousiburgh. Their bodies were found at 4pm after an extensive search.
A guard of honour was formed by neighbours and friends as Mr Needham's coffin arrived at the tiny church, led by four tractors.
The church was filled to overflowing an hour before his Mass began, and loudspeakers relayed the service to those outside.
Mr Needham and Mr Davitt had worked in New Zealand, but returned to their homeland.
"People have spoken of how obliging Martin was when called upon to do a job, but he had a passion for machinery so it was never a job for him," said Fr Long.
"His love of family, which was also seen in the great relationship he had with his nephews and nieces, was the deciding factor in his decision to return home even though he has established himself in New Zealand.
"The tragedy has left us with nothing but our raw human emotions, a numbing sadness, shock, disbelief and anger, helplessness and tears."
Mr Needham is survived by his parents, Pat-Joe and Breege, and his sisters, Olivia, Patricia, Catriona and Elaine.
He was buried in Killeen Old Cemetery, a short distance from his home.