Tributes have been paid to two 16-year-old boys who tragically died in a Co Derry lough whilst marking the final hours of their summer holidays.
Joseph Sebastien and Reuven Simon, who were both from the Kerala Community in the city, died after getting into difficulty at Enagh Lough near Strathfoyle on Monday (August 29).
Emergency services rushed to Temple Road at about 6:30pm as news of the tragedy began to unfold. Specialist teams conducted an extensive search to try and find the two teenagers and asked people to avoid the area.
A police aircraft was also spotted circling the lough for a period before the first harrowing discovery was made. The first male was taken from the water and transferred to Altnagelvin Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Later in the evening, a second male was located and recovered from the water after extensive searches by Foyle Search and Rescue and police divers. He was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.
Meanwhile, one other male was taken to the hospital for treatment to injuries, which are not believed to be life-threatening. Three other males were also at the scene.
The news has sent shockwaves across Derry, with hundreds of heartfelt tributes appearing on social media after the news.
A spokesperson for the Kerala Association in Derry said: "We are extremely heartbroken with the devastating tragedy with the loss of our two youngsters, Mr. Reuven Simon and Mr. Joseph Sebastian, happened in Enagh Lough yesterday. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of our families and friends at this difficult time!
Local resident and Alliance councillor, Rachael Ferguson, said the entire Strathfoyle Community were behind the family during the difficult time.
"The community has woken today in complete shock and saddened to hear the news that two 16-year-old boys have lost their life at Enagh Lough," she said.
"I know they want the families to know they offer them their thoughts prayers and support. And they hope the young boys who witnessed the accident get as much support as possible to help them understand the trauma they have gone through.
"As a local resident and councillor, I want to thank all who came out to help and support the search last night, the emergency services and the community groups and activists who offered their help and premises if needed."
Foyle Search and Rescue said that their thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the two victims. A spokesperson added: "Multiple Foyle Search and Rescue teams responded and it was quickly established that after one young boy was rescued, sadly one young boy was missing.
"After a number of hours of extensive searching of the Lough using specialised sonar equipment and a coordinated dive by police divers, a 16-year-old boy was recovered.
"We cannot express enough how much our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the two young boys who tragically lost their lives yesterday as well as all the emergency services involved at the scene.
Mayor of Derry, Sandra Duffy, said she was deeply saddened at the news and there was a huge sense of sadness across the city and district at the news.
"The sad loss of two teenage lives in such circumstances is devastating for all of us. As a mother, my heart goes out to the boys’ parents and to their family and friends at this time, I hope you get the strength and support you need to get you through your huge loss.
“Our rivers and loughs can be so dangerous and this incident highlights more than ever the need for us all to be vigilant at this time of year. My thoughts are also with the boys’ friends who were there last night and who witnessed the tragedy and to their school friends and teachers who should have been welcoming them back to school this week.
“We are united in our grief today and all of us are here to offer our support to the families in the difficult days ahead."
It's understood that the pair were supposed to start their A-Level's this week at St Columb's College after only receiving their GCSE results last week.
"There is devastation and shock right across the Kerala Community. This is a very close-knit community with about 250 families right across the city and they are profoundly sad at this news," said SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan.
"The two boys would've gone through primary school here and they were looking forward to starting their next chapter with their A-Levels.
"These two boys were inseparable from what I have been told, they would always do everything together and they were good, honest young kids.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends and the Kerala community at this unbelievably dark and difficult time."
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