Creeslough explosion victim Leona Harper was a 'little lady with a big heart,' funeral told

WATCH: Full report by UTV's Correspondent Gareth Wilkinson:

The funeral of 14 year old Leona Harper who died in the Creeslough tragedy has been told she was a “little lady with a big heart who lived a full life”.

The priest at the funeral said her death had left everyone who knew her "shell-shocked and grief-stricken."

The 14-year-old was in the service station to buy ice cream when the explosion happened on Friday.

Sarah McLachlan’s song Angel was played as her coffin was led to the altar of St Mary's Church in Ramelton.

Irish President Michael D Higgins is one of those at the funeral - this morning, he joined mourners at the funeral of Martina Martin was working in the shop when the explosion took place.

Father Michael Carney welcomed Irish President Michael D Higgins and the Taoiseach’s aide de camp at the requiem mass.

He said the communities and the county were “reeling” from Friday’s “awful tragedy” in Creeslough.

A guard of honour was formed outside St Mary’s Church as the hearse carrying Leona Harper's coffin arrived. Credit: UTV

Fr Carney said Leona was baptised and made her First Communion in Saint Mary’s Church and was confirmed three years ago in the same church as her funeral was taking place.

“Hugh and Donna talk of their daughter as their little miracle – and therein lies a story… when Anthony was born, Donna was told that there was no prospect of her conceiving  another child.  But seven years later something unexpected happened: Leona arrived, hence the little miracle.”“Leona’s time on this Earth was short – too short,” Fr Carney said.

“But she lived life to the full, she has made her unique contribution, left her imprint and contributed to the lives of those she loved, lived and laughed with.”

He told mourners that Leona’s life journey had “reached its destination”.

“We pray through this Mass for Leona and for her eternal happiness,” he said. “And we remember the other nine victims of Friday’s tragedy and commend them to the mercy and compassion of God.”

Fr Carney welcomed Leona’s family and loved ones to the Mass, in particularly her parents Donna and Hugh, her brothers Anthony and Jamie and her grandmother Mary and her extended family.

He also welcomed her friends from school in Scoil Mhuire and Mulroy College, her rugby teammates and all those who knew Leona through her hobbies and pursuits.

“The suddenness of Leona’s going has left you her family and all who knew and loved Leona shell-shocked and grief-stricken,” he said.

In his homily, Father Micheal Carney said those who have climbed Muckish Mount, Creeslough’s “great brooding backdrop”, will know to heed the weather.

“It can change quickly, so much so that you can be covered by cloud and surrounded by impenetrable fog even on a clear blue-skied day,” he said.

“Clouds and fog come to mind as I think of the events of last Friday.

“The cloud of this awful tragedy which has robbed us of so much weighs heavy on our county, communities, parishes and homes.

“We are lost in a fog of grief and sadness so painful it hurts.

“The scale of the tragedy is so unimaginable it is almost unreal. And then names, faces, stories and yarns make it so very real.”

Father Carney said there is “nothing heavier than grief”.

“Sadness is like a big unwieldy weight we’re saddled with but can’t quite manage to carry comfortably,” he added.

“It presses down on us, presses in on us, unbalancing us and tripping us up. It is upsetting and unsettling and leaves us out of sorts, cast adrift and lonely.”

He said it makes people wonder if they will ever be at peace again.

“Put simply, we have a gaping wound, we are in pain and the nice, neat, ordered and happy ways of our lives have been kicked over and shattered like glass on a paved floor,” he added.

Help and support:

Ireland's HSE has established a support phone line for those impacted by the tragedy in Creeslough.

People should ring 087 1405138 where their call will be answered by trained HSE professionals.

The line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

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