'A leader in everything': Hundreds gather for funeral of tragic Cork teen killed in car crash

Tears flowed freely as the heartbroken sisters of the teenager killed in a car crash on the northside of Cork city last week promised that her memory will never die.

'A leader in everything': Hundreds gather for funeral of tragic Cork teen killed in car crash

Tears flowed freely as the heartbroken sisters of the teenager killed in a car crash on the northside of Cork city last week promised that her memory will never die.

Hundreds of mourners sat hushed in the packed church of St Mary's on the Hill in Knocknaheeny this morning as Kimberly O'Connor's sisters, Shannon and Britney, spoke of the family's devastation following her death last week.

Kimberly, 16, from Harbour View Road in Knocknaheeny, was killed when the car in which she was a front seat passenger collided with a wall outside a house just yards from her home at around 11.45pm last Wednesday.

At her funeral Mass this morning, in the church were she was baptised, christened, received her communion and confirmation, her sisters, who lost their dad, Mark, 11 years ago, fought back tears as they paid tribute from the altar to the girl they called "baby doll" and "little sis".

Shannon said from the time Kimberly could walk and talk, she was their "drama queen - singing and dancing all day every day around the house".

"Everywhere you went the room lit up with your beautiful smile and infectious laugh," she said.

She said they will forever cherish videos of Kimberly recorded by their mother which will allow them to forever hear her voice whenever they need to.

Kimberly O'Connor
Kimberly O'Connor

"I promise Kimberly your memory will never die - there won’t be a day go by when we won’t say your name. Sleep tight my baby doll - I love you forever," she said.

Britney fought back tears as she recalled how she and Kimberly would argue about clothes and how Kimberly would often wear her new runners and clothes going out.

"You always made everyone smile - morning, noon and night - your beautiful singing would never stop," she said.

We will live with your memory in our hearts forever. You finally got your name in lights, beautiful doll. Now you’re with our dad. I’d say he’s standing with his wings open to wrap you in.

Shannon then spoke on behalf of her mother, Jennifer saying she would remember Kimberly's beautiful personality and caring heart, and how she did her makeup and curled her hair every day while blasting her favourite songs.

"She loved everything about you - you were and still will be her superstar,” Shannon said.

"My mam finds a bit of comfort knowing you are with your daddy Mark as you were only four when your dad died but now you are together and he gets to have a beautiful angel to mind you till I get there."

She said their new baby brother, Cody, and niece, Tori, will always know her, and added on behalf of her mother: "Your name and memories will be spoken in my house every day.

"I will never understand why you were taken from me. You always had a positive vibe to you and never saw the wrong in anyone. I am so proud of how mature and positive you were in your life.

"Your quote was positive vibes. You were a leader in everything but in a beautiful understanding and caring way everyone knew how good you were."

Gifts brought to the altar included a painting Kimberly did at school recently, fake eye lashes, a bottle of duo glue tan, a HOPE Foundation t-shirt, a SuperStar stage school t-shirt, a cooperation jumper from the school, and a microphone and music book.

Some of her cousins and her close friends read prayers of the faithful.

Chief celebrant, Fr Gregory Howard, the parish priest of Knocknaheeny and Hollyhill, said a cloud came over the community when word spread about the crash.

"Nothing prepares us for that. There is an incompleteness, an unreadiness and even a certain brutality: She was too young, so fragile still so unprepared to give up life," he said.

"Since then the community here in Knocknaheeny/Hollyhill have prayed. We have prayed for Kimberly, her family, her friends, and the others hurt in the crash.

"Even for people of faith, including myself, this is a time when finding perspective and consolation is difficult. What words can help bathe and sooth the wounds of grief, hurt and utter devastation?

"Perhaps the consolation and courage we seek at a time like this are found not in words at all, but in a simple presence to each other, in the simple gesture of hugging each other and silently sharing pain and helplessness.

"This has been the reality here in Knocknaheeny/Hollyhill in the last week. Shared pain and helplessness perhaps say all that needs to be said: 'I am here. I care. There is nothing I can say to make things better. I know you do not expect me to say anything!' And, maybe that’s enough."

He said Kimberly's family have drawn comfort from the beautiful works spoken about her, and tributes posted online.

"Kimberly was given many talents and she used them generously and unselfishly," he said.

"She was charming, a total extrovert. She spread joy and happiness wherever she went. She empathized with people and was always a voice for her fellow classmates. She had lots of sass. Kimberly had a great interest in drama and singing and was very talented.

"She played a leading role in two musicals at the Cork Opera house prepared in the Terence McSwiney college over the last two years with her friends and teachers.

"She received an award from UCC plus programme in March 2018 for excellence in maths, gaeilge and foreign languages. Kimberly was one of five students who travelled to Kolkata, India, in January with the Hope Foundation.

"She spent months fundraising with her friends to help the poor of Kolkata. She helped to improve the classrooms and orphanages in the Hope U Can Paint Project there, making them colourful and engaging places to be for Kolkata’s street children.

"Kimberly was also involved in an exchange programme with cooperation Ireland, with students in the North of Ireland.

This is a life fully lived — talents used for the benefit of others.

"God must be pleased with her and her reward must be truly great. More importantly though is that Kimberly loved her family and friends and always encouraged others to take centre stage. She was loved by all.

"In the face of this untimely and tragic death, there is deep regret. But this regret is not a regret which focuses us back on the sins and shortcomings of our lives. No. The regret is that so much more of the love which Kimberly has in her hasn’t flourished fully. In the face of death our deepest yearning is for more time: more time to express love more fully.

"Kimberly’s short life, which she lived to the full, challenges us to enter life more deeply in love, appreciation and especially in reconciliation."

Amid heartbreaking scenes of grief, Kimberly’s remains were taken to St Catherine’s Cemetery in Kilcully afterwards for burial.

More than 700 people have pledged just over €18,000 to a GoFundMe account which was set up days after the crash by local man, James Twomey, to help Kimberly’s family.

An 18-year-old boy who was a rear-seat passenger in the car suffered severe head injuries and remains in Cork University Hospital.

Gardaí are still investigating all the circumstances surrounding the accident and have appealed for the driver of a white Toyota taxi who was travelling on Harbour View Road between 11.30pm and midnight last Thursday to contact them on 021-4946200.

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