A Co Antrim village has been left reeling after it emerged that a 14-year-old victim of the Florida school massacre has strong family ties to the area.
Cara Loughran, a keen Irish dancer, was one of 17 people murdered by a teenage gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Miami on Valentine’s Day.
Her father is originally from Toomebridge and her grandparents still live in the village.
Cara’s brother Liam, who is also a student at the school, is understood to have witnessed the attack but survived.
The massacre was carried out by a former pupil of the school, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Police say he has confessed to the killings.
Amid the confusion in the aftermath of the massacre, Cara’s family were unable to get in touch with her.
A family friend posted Cara’s photo on Facebook along with a plea for help in finding her.
But, hours later, she revealed that Cara’s parents had “been given the news no parent ever wants to hear”.
Cara’s aunt, Lindsay Fontana described having to break the news to her eight-year-old daughters that their cousin was dead.
She posted on facebook: “We are absolutely gutted. Cara was 14 years old. She was an excellent student, she loved the beach and she loved our girls.”
Thanking all those who sent their thoughts and prayers for the family, Lindsay added: “This should not have happened to our niece Cara and it can not happen to other people’s families.
Alderman William McNeilly, who lives in Toombridge, told the News Letter that the local community had been “stunned” to learn of Cara’s death.
“This has been a big shock for the local community and my heart goes out to this girl’s family,” he added.
“No one should ever have to hear news like that. It is very sad indeed.”
TUV leader Jim Allister Jim Allister added: “Condolences to local family in Toome after cruel murder of their granddaughter in Florida school attack. Awful news for a family to receive.”
Cara was a member of the Drake School of Irish Dance’s community in South Florida.
One of Cara’s neighbour’s, Danny Vogel shared a post on Facebook confirming that the 14-year-old was one of the victims of the massacre.
He stated: “It is with a heavy heart and much regret that I write these words. Our next-door neighbour’s daughter was one of the lives taken too soon by a senseless act of violence at Stoneman Douglas High School. RIP Cara, and fly with the angels.
“You will be greatly missed, and we will always love you and celebrate your beautiful life.”
Last week’s massacre was the deadliest US school shooting since 2012.
The FBI has come under heavy criticism after it emerged that agents had failed to investigate a tip-off received a tip last month that the suspect “had a despite to kill” and could be plotting an attack.
The FBI’s acknowledgment that it mishandled the tip prompted a sharp rebuke from its boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a call from Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign.