The family of Cara Loughran, one of the students killed in the Valentine’s Day shooting in Florida, has links to Co Antrim.
Cara, 14, was a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz went on a rampage with an assault rifle on Wednesday, killing 17 people.
Cara’s older brother Liam, 17, also witnessed the shootings but escaped unharmed.
Cara’s father is originally from Toomebridge, Co Antrim, reports ITV.com. Her grandparents and extended family still live there and are said to be distraught over the death of the young Irish dancer.
A family friend in Toomebridge told the Belfast Telegraph that the entire community has been affected by the horrific news of the Florida shooting and Cara’s death.
"Our deepest sympathy goes out to Cara's granny and the whole family connection here in Northern Ireland," he said. "Everyone is just stunned by what has happened."
Cara’s aunt, Lindsay Fontana, posted on Facebook what it was like having to share the news of her niece's death with her daughters.
"This morning I had to tell my 8-year-old daughters that their sweet cousin Cara was killed in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday," she wrote.
"We are absolutely gutted. Cara was 14-years-old. She was an excellent student, she loved the beach and she loved our girls."
Cara, who would have celebrated her 15th birthday on Feb 21, was a member of the Drake School of Irish Dance community in South Florida.
The school has started a GoFundMe page to help support the Loughran family.
Irish dance teacher Chrissy Deacy writes: “In the aftermath of the Douglas school tragedy, we have received so many thoughtful enquiries about ways to help. They’ve sustained us. Thank you. Locally, our blood banks are asking for, specifically, O-negative blood. If you or someone you know is that type, please consider donating.
“We also want to provide support for the Loughran family, while also respecting their privacy as they grieve the loss of their beloved Cara. We are organizing meal service and groceries for them in the upcoming weeks. If anyone is interested in sponsoring a meal or donating a gift card, we will coordinate a schedule and delivery.
“We’ve started a GoFundMe page and invite Drake and the rest of the Irish Dance community to join us in showing love for the Loughran family.”
The GoFundME page can be found here.