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Community 'numbed' by mum-of-two's tragic death

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Community 'numbed' by mum-of-two's tragic death thumbnailPallbearers at the funeral of Annette Preston at St Mary's Church, Drumragh, yesterday (Tuesday), following a tragic accident at Round O jetty, Enniskillen, early on Saturday morning.

THE TRAGIC and untimely death of a 49-year-old mother-of-two in a boating accident has shocked and numbed the entire community, mourners at her funeral heard yesterday (Tuesday).

Annette Preston, from Clanabogan Road, Omagh, died following a tragic accident at the Round 'O' Jetty, Enniskillen, in the early hours of Saturday. She fell into the water just after 3am and despite valiant attempts by her husband and a passer-by to rescue her, she did not survive.

The Preston family was on holiday and their boat was moored at this popular lough-side visitor spot which was packed with boats over the Bank Holiday weekend.

There was a huge turnout of grief-stricken mourners for the funeral service in St Mary's Church, Drumragh, to bid farewell to a popular and highly respected lady. The rural church was packed to capacity with many more standing outside.

In his homily Monsignor Joseph Donnelly, Parish Priest, said a family, extended family and a whole community have been left numbed by this unexpected, sudden and tragic death.

"It is, of course, the bereaved husband and family who suffer most from the sudden loss. Today, then, as we gather here in prayer we keep Annette's family and friends to the forefront of our prayers. Sudden death also affects us all. So, with the family we share the burden of grief today.

 

"Faced with sudden and unexpected death, it is easy, normal even, to let our minds be filled by all sorts of questions. The greatest cause of pain, when we come up against the mystery of death springs from questions like why?, and what if. Yet, at a time like this, we are brought cruelly up against the realisation that we live in a world where we are, more often than not, left without an answer, at least not the answer that can ease our grief."

He added for a family to have to part with a dear wife, a loving mother, a sister, daughter, was all so very unreal.

"Annette was just 49 years of age, with, in the estimation of most, by our reckoning, the prospect of many happy years ahead. It wasn't to be."

Monsignor Donnelly provided a brief outline of Mrs Preston's life stating she grew up in a family of three, and had an older brother and a younger sister. He said she went to St Conor's Primary School and later to the then St Brigid's Secondary School.

 

She took up work upon leaving school, starting off in the Co-op store. She later moved to Desmond's Factory and was with them until it closed.

"In the meantime she met Stevie. They fell in love and married in 1998. They set up house at Clanabogan Road, their home from then on. Annette's life centred on Stevie and their two children, Stephanie and Andrew. She was always a hard worker and a great lover of nature. Her kindly nature extended also to animals who seemed to sense that they were welcome in her company.

 

Annette got great enjoyment in their caravan for years. She looked forward to the time spent there and had equal enthusiasm for the boat on Lough Erne. They planned to cruise the Shannon next year," Monsignor Donnelly said.

He added the tragedy of the last few days contrasted very much with Annette's bubbly nature and sense of fun.

"We may search for answers and just be left at a loss. It is for that reason we turn to the scripture word for comfort. It calls us to look down the road into the future. Our existence on this earth is not without limits. The Father in heaven holds out a destiny for each one of us. In the Gospel today, Jesus' words are greatly reassuring - 'All that the Father gives me will come to me.' He emphasises 'Whoever comes to me I will not turn away.' We can all take great hope and consolation from his words."

 

Monsignor Donnelly offered his deepest sympathy and that of the priests of the parish to Annette's husband, Steven, to their family, Stephanie and Andrew, to her father, Vincent, to her sister, Paula and brother, Tommy, to her father and mother-in-law, John and Sandra, to her brothers-in-law, Ian and Gordon, to the wider family circle and friends and to all who will miss her presence.

Burial took place immediately afterwards in Drumragh Cemetery.

In relation to the incident itself by the time police and ambulance arrived at the scene Mr Preston had been rescued, but his wife was unaccounted for. She was later recovered from the water and efforts were made to save her life, but she died in hospital.

Mr Preston was also taken to the South West Acute Hospital for treatment, and was later discharged.

The PSNI said police and other emergency services attended the scene.

Inspector Keith Hicks said: "On arrival the male was already out of the water. A search operation was implemented and a woman was taken from the water. Unfortunately she died a short time later in hospital."

A post mortem examination was carried out and an investigation into the circumstances is now underway.

"Local police would extend their sympathies to the family and would offer thanks to all of the agencies involved in the operation," he said.

 

Mrs Preston's brother, Thomas Sharkey, spoke of his family's anguish over her tragic death.

Speaking ahead of yesterday's funeral, the 50-year-old caretaker said Annette, who was the youngest of three siblings and a very experienced sailor, lived for her husband, daughter and son and loved holidaying as a family on their boat. He added everyone was finding it extremely difficult to come to terms with the shocking tragedy.

"We're devastated; you don't expect to go on your holiday and have an accident like that," Mr Sharkey said. "Annette, Stevie and the children went down to their boat on Lough Erne regularly. They loved their boat and they went down most weekends during holiday time and travelled around. They had 20 years' experience.

"We're not bearing up too well at the minute; it's a very sensitive time, but accidents happen."

Mr Sharkey, who found out what had happened in the early hours of Saturday when the police notified him, said it was hard to find words to describe the darkness that had engulfed them.

"I've lost my sister," he said. "They're a nice family and lovely family people. She loved her daughter Stephanie and son Andrew and they all loved their holidaying."

"Their boat was a little higher than the jetty and like always Stevie had taken Annette by the hand to help guide her over," said Mr Sharkey. "She lost her footing and slipped into the water, taking Stevie with her. Stevie was able to come up for a second and call for help.

"Fortunately there was a man nearby who jumped in and pulled Stevie to safety. He went back in for Annette and tried his best to get her, but he couldn't."

Mr Sharkey said that Steven was devastated by the loss of his wife and best friend.

"Annette was a loving mother who had all the time in the world for her children and her husband," he said. "She was a simple and quiet woman. She was a mother and housewife who lived for her family."

Mr Sharkey thanked the emergency services and said that they could have been faced with two deaths had it not been for the man who desperately tried to save his sister.

He said: "If it weren't for him we could be dealing with the loss of Stevie as well, and for that we have to thank him."

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