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THE heartbroken parents of Bethany Cousins, the 11-year-old Lurgan girl who died on a family holiday at Portballintrae on Sunday, have paid tribute to their daughter.

Bethany was enjoying an afternoon on the beach when she got into difficulties in the sea and despite the best efforts of her family and emergency services they were unable to save her.

Bethany’s mother Ruth said her daughter was everything she could have wanted and she would always hold a place in her family’s hearts.

Ruth commented: “If you could write down 100 things you want in a daughter that was her.

“I know a lot of people say this, but I can honestly say she never gave us a day’s trouble in her life.

“I would have described her as a quiet child, but when you hear some of the stories from her friends she was anything but.

“She was an outgoing girl and was at the age was she was starting to find her independence.”

Her dad Alistair said: “She always had a smile on her face. She was a model daughter. She was so pleasant and so helpful.”

Bethany was the middle child of three belonging to the Glenwood Park couple. She has an older brother Alex (14) and younger brother Ben (8).

The Cousins family had been on holiday at Portballintrae when Bethany was tragically taken from them.

Ruth said: “It was the first day of our holiday. We’ve always loved the north coast. We usually go a bit earlier but we waited until Alex came back from Scout camp in Torquay on Saturday. Alex was in his room catching up on sleep from camp when it happened. The rest of us were down at the beach.”

Bethany and Ben had been bodyboarding when Bethany got swept away by the current. Upon realising something was wrong Alistair swam out to his daughter and fought the current to carry her back to the beach.

The emergency services were quickly on the scene just after 2pm on Sunday and Bethany was taken to Causeway Coast Hospital in Coleraine where she sadly passed away later that evening.

Ruth and Alistair paid tribute to the paramedics and hospital staff who fought to save Bethany right through until 9pm. They also thanked the coastguard, police and people on the beach for their help and kindness.

Ruth said: “We ended up with so many coats. We don’t know who owns them. People were giving their coats to Bethany and Ben for warmth. Everyone on the beach wanted to help in some way.”

Bethany had finished King’s Park Primary School in June and was due to start Lurgan Junior High School this September.

Ruth said: “She couldn’t wait to start the Junior High. We got the letter a couple of weeks ago to tell us she was going into one of the top classes.

“It really didn’t surprise us. She had just been a great girl right through King’s Park. She was a great wee worker and she’d got brilliant reports from all her teachers. We were very proud of her.”

The 11-year-old loved cycling, especially since it was a hobby which brought her closer to nature.

“She loved nature and loved animals,” said her mum.

“Bethany, Alex and Ben had three guinea pigs which were treated like royalty.”

Bethany had followed in her mother’s footsteps as a member of High Street Methodist Girls Brigade and Lurgan Ladies Hockey Club, where she’d played since Primary Three.

She’d also been inspired by her mum to take up running. Bethany competed in this year’s 1K fun run at Craigavon with her mother who is a familiar face at the annual 10K event.

“I called her my mini me,” said Ruth.

“She looks like me and did all the things that I did. She was a better version of me though. She was the best anybody could be.

“We’ll remember her in our hearts forever.”

Ruth and Alistair thanked family, friends and neighbours who called to their home to give them support in recent days.

Following a private service in the family home, Bethany’s funeral service took place on Wednesday afternoon in Shankill Parish Church. She was buried in Lurgan Cemetery.