TRIBUTES POUR IN FOR CRASH VICTIM RACHAEL

GRIEVING friends of Rathfriland car crash victim, Rachael McConville, have been sending dozens of tributes to a new Bebo page set up in the schoolgirl's honour.

The page on the popular social networking site has been flooded with messages of condolence for the 11-year-old who died last week after she was struck by a car on the Castlewellan Road in the town.

Hilltown came to a standstill on Saturday, as family and friends bade a heartrending farewell at a packed funeral service conducted by Father Stephen Ferris at St John's Church in the village.

School friends from Sacred Heart Grammar School in Newry formed a line of honour in silent tribute and there were poignant scenes as Rachael's small white coffin was draped with flowers and her St Patrick's Drumgath GAC shirt.

Speaking at the service, Father Stephen Ferris told mourners Rachael was "a bright spark, both in personality and intelligence". He said many stories had been told over the past couple of days, and most had highlighted her sense of fun and zest for life.

"Rachael had many and varied talents in singing, in music and in speech and drama and she also had a great love of and ability in gaelic football," he said. "Short as her life has been in terms of years, it was lived to the full and it is a life complete.

"Rachael loved her family and her friends and she had enormous potential. She was living life and enjoying it to the full. Her death has traumatised our close-knit community. It has numbed everyone."

Rachael, who lived with her two younger siblings and parents, Paddy and Amanda, at Drumgath near Rathfriland, was rushed to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry after the accident last Tuesday afternoon. She was later transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast, where she spent the evening in a critical condition, but died the next day from serious head injuries.

Her heartbroken parents have spoken of "their wee treasure" who they said had been a "trendsetter and style icon" among her friends. In a statement, Paddy and Amanda described their daughter as a "fun-loving, active member of the community" who was small in stature, yet abundant in personality".

"Rachael was a trend-setter and style icon to her large circle of friends," they said. "Her most precious items included her mobile phone, computer and her make-up bag. She loved to listen to the music of Westlife, Beyonce, Lady Ga-Ga and Taylor Swift."

SDLP councillor, Seamus Doyle, said Rathfriland was still shocked by Rachael's death. "It is so sad as she was a young person with her whole life in front of her and she had almost completed her first year at Sacred Heart Grammar," he added.