Tributes have been paid to ‘beautiful and kind’ little Joshua Kelly after his tragic death outside a primary school in Newtownards.
The six-year-old died after a car accident on the Scrabo Road in the Co Down town around 3pm on Wednesday.
His funeral is set to be held in St Patrick’s church in Portaferry at 1pm on Saturday.
Leading the tributes on Facebook, his mother Clare said: “Yesterday my beautiful boy grew his wings. And I thank god for the 6 brilliant years I had him RIP my wee bird.”
The youngster was a Primary 3 pupil at St Finian’s Primary School in the town.
The principal of St Finian’s, Barry Coulter, described Joshua as “a much-loved pupil” who will be “sadly missed by the whole school community”.
“Joshua was a beautiful, kind little boy who was very popular with his classmates and the staff of the school,” he said.
“His smile could light up a room and his bubbly, affectionate personality was infectious.
“There is a severe sense of shock and grief throughout our school.
“Trained staff from the Education Authority’s Critical Incident Response Team are helping to support the staff and children through this difficult time.”
He added: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Joshua’s entire family circle and the St Finian’s school community sends them our sincerest sympathy and support.”
Newtownards parish priest, Father Martin O’Hagan, who knew Joshua, said his death has been “a very, very tragic experience for any family, but for this family it will be so traumatic and they are experiencing a tsunami of emotions”.
He said his mother, who also has a younger daughter, has been touched that “people have been very, very supportive”.
“The family have been deeply affected by that kindness and the wave of support,” he added. “But it is a very tough time.”
Fr O’Hagan, who has spent hours in the primary school talking to pupils and teachers, said when talking about Joshua “pupils spoke to me about his fun and his lovely sense of being a team player”.
“One of the wee boys spoke about him taking part in a relay team when he was in P2 and they won, and it was amazing how these little memories resonate,” he said.
“There was a sense today that he was passing on the baton for others to run.
“But they all had very happy memories where he was kind, outlooking and would speak to all the pupils because he had a lovely nature.
“They also said he definitely responded to praise and had lovely qualities that you would have to have seen develop and mature but unfortunately and tragically this event has happened and cut his life too short.”
Fr O’Hagan said he had also spoken to Ms Kelly who is “undoubtedly in the depths of difficulty in her own life”.
“Her life must be in a context where she is in bits, however in the midst of this ‘fragmentedness’ she is conscious of the love and support of her family and wider parish families and community as well,” he added.
“That is reassuring and giving her great hope at this time. None of us would want to be in her shoes.”
He added that her younger daughter “will have a lot of questions as time goes on”.
SDLP councillor in Portaferry, Joe Boyle, said he knew Ms Kelly when she lived in Portaferry.
He said the Kelly family “are well known and well liked in the Portaferry area”.