‘One Punch’ beach victim Darren O’Neill ‘saw best in everyone’

Tyrella Beach, Co Down, was the scene of the fatal attack.
Tyrella Beach, Co Down, was the scene of the fatal attack.
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Tributes have been paid to a young man who died after being seriously injured in a one-punch assault at a Co Down beauty spot on Thursday evening.

Darren O’Neill, 22, passed away in hospital yesterday.

He was being treated for a serious head injury he sustained in the incident at Tyrella Beach.

Family members and friends of Mr O’Neill, who was from Belfast, took to social media to express their shock and sadness at his passing.

His cousin Mick Kerr wrote of Facebook: “After a hard fought lot of days, you gained your angel wings. To most people we were just cousins, but to me, you were a teacher and the big brother that never took your eyes off me.

“We know your going to be watching over us all and helping us to get through the hard days and showing us the light to the better days.”

He added: “I’ve never seen someone as happy as you in my life, always full of joy, always ready to make friends, you really did try to see the best in everyone no matter who they were, you will always be in my dreams at night and my heart forever throughout my life, until our paths meet again, I love you brother...”

Many others took to Facebook to pass on their condolences to Mr O’Neill’s family, including Shamrock Football Club, which said its thoughts were with his sisters Danielle and Nikita.

Mr O’Neill’s sister Nikita posted a picture of her brother on her Facebook page along with the message “The main man sleep tight beautiful” and a broken heart symbol.

A friend of Mr O’Neill, Paddy McIlwaine, described him as a “gentleman” who you “couldn’t say a bad word about”.

Extending his sympathies to Mr O’Neill’s family and friends, South Down MP Chris Hazzard said the local community is in shock following the tragic incident.

“There is shock and sadness in the local community following the death of a 22-year-old man in an incident in Tyrella Beach,” the Sinn Fein man said.
“A police investigation is under way and that must be allowed to proceed. 

“My thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of this young man at this tragic time.”

Writing on Twitter, former South Down SDLP MLA Margaret Ritchie posted: “Deepest sympathies to the family of the young man, Darren O’Neill who lost his life as a result of an incident at Tyrella Beach last week. Thoughts and prayers with all.”

Slieve Croob Ulster Unionist councillor Alan Lewis commented: “I send my deepest sympathies to the family.

“This tragedy occurred when most people were enjoying the beautiful weather and scenic surroundings of Tyrella Beach.

“The family’s privacy must be respected and the PSNI must be given the space to conduct a proper and thorough investigation.”

Police have said a post-mortem examination will be carried out in due course to confirm Mr O’Neill’s cause of death.

“I can confirm that 22-year-old Darren O’Neill, who was admitted to hospital following an incident at Tyrella Beach near Newcastle on Thursday 27th June, has died,” said Detective Chief Inspector Darren McCartney.

“I would like to offer my sympathy to the family and friends of Darren at this very sad time.

“Our enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances surrounding Darren’s death and I would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed this incident or who has any information to contact detectives on 101 quoting reference number 1913 27/06/19.”

According to the PSNI, a 21-year-old man has been charged with grievous bodily harm in relation to the incident at Tyrella Beach, which occurred on Thursday at around 7.30pm.

He is due to appear at Downpatrick Magistrates Court on Thursday, July 25.

The charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service as is standard procedure.