Funeral held for tragic paralympian

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TRIBUTES were paid to Karen Cromie – the young woman who took her own life last week – as hundreds turned out for her funeral in Fermanagh yesterday.

It emerged that the 31-year-old had been hoping to compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Ms Cromie, from Ballinamallard, was found under the flyover on the main Bangor to Belfast road two weeks after she threatened to take her own life at the same place.

After mourners packed into Ballinamallard Methodist Church to pay their final respects to the popular young athlete, Rev Ken Lindsay said she had been “bubbly, generous, lively, hardworking, dedicated, caring, sensitive, charming, bright-eyed, inspirational, fiercely independent, determined to the point of being stubborn, and always putting others before herself”.

He told mourners: “Karen had mental illness and try as she might, and I believe she did try hard, she couldn’t cope.”

He said she had been surrounded by highly devoted family and friends. “So many things were in place, but illness is illness and there are times when nothing helps.”

Kevin O’Neill, from Disability Sports NI, described Ms Cromie as a “lovely, bubbly person who was a pleasure to know”. He added: “The news of Karen’s tragic death has shocked and saddened the whole disability sports community throughout the UK and Ireland. Karen was also a member of the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland and represented a new generation of talented and highly successful disabled sports people from Northern Ireland, to be recognised by broader society as elite sports people in their own right.”

Ms Cromie took part in the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008. She was a talented rower and worked at the Sports Institute at Jordanstown. It is understood the former Enniskillen Collegiate pupil lost the use of her legs after a fall while at university in Edinburgh several years ago. Born in Banbridge, Ms Cromie had been a member of the GB Wheelchair Basketball Team and had won silver medals at the 2005 and 2006 Paralympic World Cups.

On Sunday, local Ulster Unionist councillor Raymond Farrell said: “People are really lost for words. There is a sense of raw emotion out there. I taught her how to drive so I got to know her. She was a lovely person – a really bright personality, a warm person.”