The families of North Ireland man, John Rodgers, 28 and his newly wedded wife, Lynette, 26 have spoken of their horror upon finding out the the couple drowned whilst on honeymoon in South Africa.
It is believed the North Island couple from Holywood in County Down had gone for a swim shortly after arriving at popular tourist resort, Plettenberg Bay, only to be caught by strong rips.
Told the families in a joint statement upon learning of the couple’s deaths Sunday morning: ‘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.’
According to South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), the body of John Rodgers was discovered in shallow surf on Robberg Beach by a local man at around 6pm on Friday.
His wife’s body was found around 200 metres away along the same beach, the institute said.
Doctors performed CPR on the couple but they were pronounced dead.
Rescue workers later told of sea conditions being rough at the time of the couple’s drowning deaths, raising questions as to what inspired them to enter the waters and if there had been a warning system in place for swimmers?
Responding the couple’s deaths, North Down DUP MLA Gordon Dunne told: ‘I am very shocked and saddened by the tragic news of the death of this young couple on their honeymoon in South Africa.
‘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.
‘There is widespread shock and a real sense of numbness within the local community in Holywood at this time, particularly as the young lady was born in Holywood, attended the local schools in the area, and was from a very well respected family.
‘My heart goes out to the grieving families and I trust and pray that the family may know God’s help at this tragic time.’
Lynette, a physiotherapist from Holywood Co Down, and John, an office worker from Ballygowan, also in Co Down, married in front of family and friends at the First Presbyterian Church, Holywood, last Saturday.
Ironically the couple’s death were preceded by Lynette Rodgers posting on facebook of looking forward to her ‘South African adventure’.
She had changed her cover photo to a picture of her and her four smiling bridesmaids.
Wrote the bride in a facebook posting ahead of their departure to South Africa: ‘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.’
The Foreign Office has confirmed it is providing consular assistance to both families.
Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has expressed his sympathies.
He said on Twitter: ‘Very sad to hear the tragic news of young Co Down couple who were drowned whilst on honeymoon in South Africa. My sympathy to their families.’
Former mayor of North Down Andrew Muir described the double tragedy as ‘horrendous’.