David Gavin from Castlebar, Co Mayo, has not been seen since diving off a bridge near Lake Kinbasket in British Colombia on June 30. Canadian authorities called off a search last month, although private efforts to find Mr Gavin have continued.
Local priest Fr John McCormack recounted how the tragedy had struck at the lake resort, during a packed service at the Church of the Holy Rosary in Castlebar.
“Last February, David and his girlfriend, Ciara O’Malley, set out for Canada,” he said. “They were in love with each other and they quickly fell in love with Canada.
“This vast country, with its varied landscapes and climates, provided almost limitless opportunities for sport and recreation. David was an outdoors person and he loved all these chances to ski, swim, surf, and mountain climb. He was working on Ciara so that she would love them too.”
Fr McCormack said that the couple, who had been together for nine years, had loved Canada and their life had been “as near to perfect as they could hope for” since moving to Vancouver.
“Then, on the last day of June, tragedy struck. David and some of his GAA club- mates were on their way to Calgary, playing a tournament,” said Fr McCormack.
“They stopped off at Kinbasket Lake — a tranquil place surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, and trees. They decided to go for a swim to cool off.
David was the first to jump but something went wrong. He hit the water, resurfaced, and then disappeared. His friends responded immediately but were unable to save him. What went wrong we don’t know, and we will never know unless David is found.”
He said news of the tragedy reached Mr Gavin’s parents, Michael and Angela, and his sister, Aoife, at around 2am on July 1.
“That terrible news quickly spread throughout this community and, just as quickly, this community mobilised and offered unbelievable support to the family, both financial and spiritual,” he said.