Two teenagers who lost their lives following a tragic car accident had lived just a short distance from one another, studied together, worshipped at the same church – and this weekend will be buried in the same country graveyard.
Andrew Gass and Mark Hutcheson – both 17 – died following the crash on Thursday morning on the Cladymilltown Road, south Armagh.
The loss of the two young men has wrought “total devastation” upon the rural community from which they hailed, according to Rev Nigel Reid, who will be taking both of their services.
Neither of the families of the dead teenagers wished to make any comment directly.
However, Rev Reid told the News Letter: “They were two very fine young men. They were very close friends.
“They were two young men who lived in a rural setting and loved the rural way of life; they were involved in the local young farmers’ club, and they loved farming.
“They were extremely well respected in the community.”
Mr Hutcheson’s funeral will be at 2pm on Saturday, and Mr Gass’ will be at 3pm on Sunday.
Both services are open to all, and will be held at Tullyallen Presbyterian Church just outside the village of Mountnorris, to the south of Markethill.
The pair had lived close by on the outskirts of the village.
They were both members of the congregation at Tullyallen church, and will be buried at its graveyard following their respective services.
They had attended Southern Regional College, where both of them studied welding and fabrication said Rev Reid.
They came from farming families and he believes their likely intention was to make a living for themselves in that sector.
The one-vehicle collision at about 8.30am left another male passenger in his late teens injured.
He was taken to emergency department of Craigavon hospital, but was discharged on Thursday evening.
Rev Reid added: “The community is shocked. They’re just overwhelmed by it all.
“There’s a great sense of grief in the community... It’s a close-knit, rural community. Particularly among the young people and local families, there’s just total devastation.”
Asked how they will be remembered, he said: “Both of them will be remembered as hard-working, very pleasant young men.
“They’ll be remembered for their love of life; they were happy young men, and they were friendly young men.”
Mr Gass had one brother and two sisters, and Mr Hutcheson had one brother and one sister.
Mr Hutcheson’s Facebook profile showed that he had an interest in the Markethill Protestant Boys and Kilcluney Volunteers flute bands.
Asked what his message will be during the coming funerals, Rev Reid replied: “My prayer is that through these services on Saturday and Sunday the family will find comfort to face the future and that comfort will be through casting their grief to God, and relying on Him for the future.”