Family makes emotional funeral tribute to honeymoon couple who drowned

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John Rodgers, 28, and his 26-year-old wife Lynette were laid to rest today
John Rodgers, 28, and his 26-year-old wife Lynette were laid to rest today

A honeymoon couple from Down who drowned in South Africa will never be forgotten, a family statement read at their funeral said.

John Rodgers, 28, and his wife Lynette, 26, died last month after getting caught in a riptide at Plettenberg Bay.

The funeral was held at First Presbyterian Church in Holywood, Co Down, where they were married just six days before their deaths.

A military piper and bugler played at the burial of the part-time reservist corporal with the Scottish & North Irish Yeomanry.

A family tribute said: "The tragic events in South Africa have extinguished their bright flame too soon but we will never forget our daughter, son, sister, brother or friend.

"We set out to write a tribute but there are no words to immortalise John and Lynette."

The newly-weds were found on a beach on October 23.

Efforts were made to resuscitate them, but they were declared dead at the scene.

Hundreds packed the church and spilled over into the churchyard on Holywood's main street, on the outskirts of Belfast.

Family friend Lt Cpl Billy Mawhinney read the tribute, written by John's sisters, Gwen and Kathryn, and Lynette's brother Graham. He told mourners the couple's families were grateful to those who had worked to bring their bodies back to Northern Ireland.

The family statement said: "Share your stories, shed your tears, make their memories everyone's and remember what a beautiful couple they were and always will be over the rainbow."

Mrs Rodgers was a physiotherapist from Holywood. Mr Rodgers was from Ballygowan in Co Down and worked for an office equipment company in Belfast.

He was a corporal in B (North Irish Horse) Squadron.

With a passion for firearms and increasing ability to deliver high-quality instruction, he became the "go-to" person in the squadron for all Skill-At-Arms lessons, both for serving soldiers and recruits.

This was a capacity few others possessed and demonstrated the distinct uniqueness and presence that Cpl Rodgers had, a military eulogy said.

Mr Rodgers was promoted to the rank of corporal in December 2014, described as experienced, driven and proactive in all of his work.

Around 15 uniformed soldiers attended the funeral, part of a group of about 65 servicemen and close colleagues.

Before the service, Lieutenant Colonel James Campbell-Barnard MBE, Commanding Officer, The Scottish & North Irish Yeomanry, said the regiment has lost a good friend and an excellent soldier.

"Dedicated, highly respected and loyal, Cpl Rodgers had served with such distinction within B (North Irish Horse) Squadron over the past 10 years, one is now left to ponder what he would have undoubtedly achieved over the coming years," he said.

"Inevitably both his and Lynette's deaths have been so very keenly felt by his squadron colleagues and across the regiment as a whole. He will be sorely missed by us all."

The Rev Noble McNeely, who married them, conducted the Service of Thanksgiving.