IRELAND: A father and daughter who died in the Creeslough explosion in County Donegal shared a “beautiful love”, their funeral Mass has been told.
Robert Garwe and Shauna Flanagan Garwe, the youngest of the 10 victims, were found in each other’s arms in the rubble of the service station, their family said.
A priest said Shauna, 5, “made a lasting impression on all she met”.
Garwe, 50, was proud of his children and his homeland, Zimbabwe, he added.
The Irish President Michael D Higgins joined mourners for Saturday’s service at St Michael’s Church in the village, where several of the funerals have taken place.
Irish police said the explosion on 7 October appeared to have been a tragic accident.
As their coffins lay beside each other at the front of the church, Fr John Joe Duffy said the father and daughter had also been “side-by-side in the shop” when the explosion happened.
“Her father I’m sure in that split second just wanting to help and protect his beautiful daughter so very much,” he said.
“We pray that they are side-by-side in heaven.”
‘Beautiful little girl’
The priest said he had known Mr Garwe and his family.
Shauna was “a beautiful little girl”, he said, who loved art and animals.
She had just started as a pupil at nearby Scoil Mhuire weeks before her death and was a “radiant beacon of light, of happiness and joy” to all who knew her.
Robert, known in the village as Bob, had taken his daughter to the shop to buy a birthday cake and treats when the explosion happened.
Throughout the week, eight other funerals have been held, either in the small village itself or the surrounding areas.
‘Found in each other’s arms’
By Grainne Connolly, BBC News NI in Creeslough
Two hearses pulled up outside St Michael’s Church, one with a little wicker coffin inside.
Young children, some in plain clothing and some in their Scoil Mhuire uniforms, were among the mourners with their parents.
Inside the church, pictures of Shauna and her father with family sat on their coffins.
Ten red candles also remain lit on the altar for the victims of last week’s explosion.
In life, Robert and Shauna were always seen in the village together.
In death, their family said they were found in each other’s arms in the rubble.
Family from near and far have made the journey to Creeslough to pay their respects.
A guard of honour took place outside Scoil Mhuire before the service. Five-year-old Shauna had only started school there this year.
During the Mass, items personal to father and daughter were brought to the altar; a hat that Bob always wore, a unicorn teddy that Shauna loved and her scooter.
Outside the church, parents hugged their children that bit tighter as Fr Duffy spoke about Shauna. Some of the children present were her classmates.
Mourners smiled when they heard about how Shauna loved animals; how she used to wave in at the teachers at Scoil Mhuire as she passed by on her scooter or the pride that she took in sharing her daddy’s drawings.
There was a little laughter too as Fr Duffy told the congregation that Shauna used to bring a mirror to school in her pencil case so that she always looked her best – “A trait she got from Dublin and Zimbabwe,” he said.
After attending the Mass on Saturday morning, Irish president Michael D Higgins said it had been an “extraordinary week in so many ways”.
“In a small community where the relationships are so close and where people have intimate knowledge of families and circumstances, it isn’t a single person or a family that carries the big lash of a terrible tragedy like this, but it is the whole community,” he said.
President Higgins said times like these have shown how the “best instincts and the decencies of people come to the fore”.
“I think what will happen now is that will be the big challenge,” he continued.
“The funerals are over, but all the vacant spaces are there and all the losses that were experienced and people remember and something new will have to come in its place – new relationships, new connections, new functions that will happen in the community.
“But I’m certain that they have all of the ingredients, of the courage, of the determination, to make that something new fresh and be as valuable as what they have lost.”