The grief is almost palpable in this tiny town in the west of Ireland. Bright sun shines on empty streets this St. Steven’s Day.
In the early morning hours of Christmas day, three young men drove home through a torrential rain storm with gale force winds. The familiar roads were flooded and what should have been a quick trip turned into their last for two of them.
The lads took a shortcut, usually reserved for tractors and 4 x 4’s. The latest reports say their jeep crashed into the Carrowinkskey River, and was quickly swept away. The youngest among them, a 19 year old, somehow managed to climb to the bank, and ran for help at about 3 a.m.
Police, Coast Guard, emergency crews, helicopters, diving crew, neighbours and family spent Christmas day searching for the two who had drowned. About 3;30 p.m. one body was recovered. A half hour laster, the second was found.
In a town of under 500, the tragic loss of these two young men is crippling.
Stopping in the grocery store this morning, the in-store radio blared the now familiar story of the drownings. Two old women wept as they shook their heads in disbelief.
Wednesday and Thursday, the community will line our street as they come to pay their respects to the Needham and Davitt families. The queue will probably start assembling around 4 p.m. And although the calling hours were listed in the obituary as 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. we expect it will be way past midnight before the funeral parlour closes their doors.
Mercifully, the weather forecast is fair for both nights for the hundreds who will come. But they all would have stood in the rain. That’s how the Irish do funerals.
Instead the stars will shine down on a community broken by grief, as they say farewell to two young farmers.
RIP Declan Davitt and Martin Needham. We will pray for you, your families and Louisburgh.