The family of the Northern Irish couple who drowned in South Africa while on their honeymoon have said the tragedy has left them devastated.
John and Lynette Rodgers, from Holywood in County Down, were found on a beach at Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape on Friday. Despite attempts to revive them, they died at the beauty spot.
In a statement released on Sunday morning, their two families said: “It has come as a great shock to both the Reilly and Rodgers families to learn of the sudden and tragic events in South Africa, which has taken the lives of Lynette and John. “Our happiness in sharing their recent wedding has been thoroughly devastated. Both were very dearly loved and brought us great joy.”
Rev Stephen Lowry from First Presbyterian Church in Holywood – where the couple married last Saturday – said everyone who knew them were deeply distressed over the deaths.
“The happinness and joy of being here last Saturday at the wedding has been truly replaced by grief and loss. We continue to support both the families and the friends with our love and our prayers. And the families have quite understandably requested that their privacy be respected at this time of grief,” Lowry said.
The Foreign Office said it was providing assistance in Northern Ireland and South Africa to both families “at this extremely difficult time, and will remain in contact with local authorities”.
The body of John Rodgers, 28, was discovered in shallow surf on Robberg Beach by a man at about 6pm on Friday, South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute said. His wife’s body was found about 200 metres away along the same beach. Doctors performed CPR on the couple but they were pronounced dead.
In messages posted on Facebook, Lynne Rodgers, 26, conveyed her excitement ahead of her South African adventure. She had changed her cover photo to a picture of her and her four smiling bridesmaids and thanked loved ones for coming to her wedding.
She wrote: “John and myself would like to thank to everyone that joined us on Saturday and for all the well wishes!
“We greatly appreciate it and had the best day ever. Heading off today so will speak to everyone when we return! Xx”
North Down DUP MLA Gordon Dunne, who knows the family, said the County Down community would rally to provide support.
“This is an absolutely tragedy and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family of both the young man and young lady who have sadly passed away. For a tragedy like this to happen days after their wedding during their honeymoon is beyond words,” he said.