Ballymena came to a standstill today as hundreds of people attended the funeral service of five-year-old Kayden Fleck, who died after falling into the Braid River on Saturday.
A service was held for the Harryville Primary School pupil at Ballymena Elim Church, led by Pastor Mark Stone.
There were heartbreaking scenes as the coffin was carried from the church, with Kayden’s parents Darrel and Leanne supporting each other as they said their farewells to their “happy-go-lucky” boy who “just melted your heart”.
The little boy’s coffin was adorned with pictures of his favourite superhero, Spiderman, and the cortege was led by a family friend dressed as the comic book character.
Pastor Stone said it had been a hard day for the family but that they were extremely touched by the huge outpouring of support from the local community.
Over 500 people packed the church - where Kayden had attended Sunday School - for the service and among those attending were members of the various response teams who were involved in Kayden’s rescue.
“There were representatives of the services involved in the rescue who were there to honour and pay respect to Kayden and his family, and an Air Ambulance followed the cortege to the committal. Pastor Stone said.
He added: “The family was really heartened by their attendance along with so many people from the community standing alongside them on such a difficult day.”
Pastor Stone said there had been a superhero theme, with Kayden being a huge fan of Spiderman.
“He absolutely loved Spiderman and Fireman Sam; his coffin had pictures of Spiderman on it and a family friend dressed up as the superhero and led the cortege from the church,” Pastor Stone said.
Pastor Stone said there would be difficult days ahead for the family but there was strong support for them from the church community.
“We have visited with them several times since the tragedy and members of the congregation are there to support them,” Pastor Stone said.
Darrel and Leanne had previously described Kayden and his twin brother Jayden as the “two musketeers”.
The family had issued a statement on Sunday via the PSNI in which they paid tribute to their son, describing him as “happy-go-lucky”, “your average wee boy” and someone who “just melted your heart”.
North Antrim MLA Paul Frew said it had been a “very tough day for Ballymena” and added that thoughts and prayers are with the family at this incredibly sad time.
Prior to the service taking place, the PSNI had advised motorists to expect delays in the town with the Larne Link Road closed in both directions to allow the cortege to makes its way to the church.
Linenhall Street was also closed once the funeral service ended to allow the cortege to makes its way to the cemetery.
Kayden fell into the river near the Ecos Centre last Saturday, prompting a large-scale effort from the emergency services and public to rescue him.
He spent close to two hours in the water before he was taken from the river some miles downstream and airlifted to Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children where he later died.