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One hundred years of friendship for Gwen and Nan

Gwen and Nan are two remarkable centenarians. Credit: UTV

Not many people can say they have been friends with someone for nearly 100 years.

But Gwen Parkhill and Nan McLaughlin are two remarkable centenarians who can lay claim to nine fun-filled decades of friendship.

Nan is 101 years young next month - while Gwen celebrates her century on 29 May.

She explained: “It’s eighty-something years since we met each other, I think straight from school.

“After I got married we went to the same church, we lived in the same street and we had quite a lot of things in common.”

Nan added: “She was always a great friend.”

Both are widows and they now live at Ratheane Nursing home in Coleraine - and the bond between them is stronger than ever.

The nursing home is planning a special joint birthday party to celebrate this enduring friendship, with family and friends invited.

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'Panic' as medics tried to save schoolgirl's life

An eyewitness has described the distressing scenes as medics tried to save the life of a schoolgirl in Portadown.

It comes as police continue to investigate a possible drugs link to the death of the 15-year-old in the Corcrain area of the town on Saturday evening.

She has been named locally as Caitlin White.

A woman who had been walking her dog when the emergency services arrived said it was upsetting to see the distress in such young faces as medics tried to save the teenager.

She said there was “panic”, adding: “Seeing the child come into the ambulance, it was just unbelievable”.

Caitlin had come to the newly-developed woodland in the Corcrain Housing Estate to socialise with friends, but she took suddenly ill around tea-time and collapsed.

She died in hospital later that night.

Credit: UTV

Youth worker Darryn Causby said: “The young people who knew this girl are deeply upset and quite honestly are hurting.

“That said, so are the family, they have lost their daughter and my thoughts turn to them.”

Flowers and messages have been left in tribute to the teenager, who was a pupil at Craigavon Senior High School.

GCSE exams took place as scheduled on Monday but the Education Authority put in place specially-trained advisors to help pupils talk through the shocking news if needed.

The death has shocked the local community but youth and community workers said there are concerns about the problem of young people drinking and taking drugs in the wider Craigavon area.

Community worker Campbell Best said: “The community centre was sold off a number of years ago and once it was sold off it was almost in a sense as if people felt hope had been removed from the area.

"For many of these young people it has led to experimenting with things and drugs being part of that process and taking additional risks that they wouldn't normally have taken."

Meanwhile a post mortem examination is being carried out to determine the exact cause of Caitlin White’s death.

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Warning as crews tackle Newtownards fire

Fire crews said there is a plume of smoke in the area.

Firefighters are dealing with a “significant” amount of rubbish and rubble on fire in Newtownards.

The blaze broke out at the Castlebawn site on the Portaferry Road - and local residents have been advised to close their windows and doors due to smoke.

A spokesperson for the Fire Service said one fire was extinguished in the area earlier on Monday.

They are now waiting for a digger to arrive on site to separate the rubbish and rubble to enable them to continue with firefighting operations.

The spokesperson added that crews have been liaising with Environmental Health from Ards and North Down Borough Council and the site owners.

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