An emotional memorial service has taken place in Mitchell, Queensland to mourn the loss of late Irishman Peter Burke.
Friends and colleagues of the young Irish backpacker gathered at the Mitchell Catholic Church at 10am on Tuesday to pay their respects to the young man who tragically lost his life on Sunday.
Mr Burke, 22, is understood to have died after falling from the railway bridge over the Maranoa River while attempting to cross to his campsite early on Sunday, June 17.
The Meathman had recently completed a volunteer stint with the Queensland Murray Darling Committee (QMDC) and was said to be thoroughly enjoying his new life in Australia.
Mr Burke is understood to have left Ireland eight months ago and had just finished three months’ regional work in Queensland.
He and his two travelling companions, also Irish, were due to spend some time in Melbourne over the coming months.
In addition to working as a volunteer, Mr Burke had also worked at a local grocery store in the area and had gotten to know many members of the close-knit community in his short time living in Mitchell.
Mourners arrived with wreathes and bouquets of flowers and were moved by a poignant slideshow of photos organised by the young man’s friends.
Glenn Telford, Flood Recovery Coordinator at the QMDC paid tribute to the flood relief worker, explaining that the memorial service had given Mr Burke’s friends and fellow backpackers an opportunity to say goodbye.
“It was just amazing the number of people who came,” Mr Telford told the Irish Echo.
“There were landholders from properties where Peter had done some recovery work.
“When he finished with us he had moved to do full-time work with the local grocery store. They shut the store. Every member of staff was at the service.
“The backpackers had put together a slide show. To me that indicated the influence Peter had on people’s lives in such a short space of time. He was a friendly, honest, open young guy and people loved him.
“He would have been lifting everyone’s spirits. That’s the sort of guy he was,” he continued.
Mr Telford offered his condolences to the Burke family.
“The thought of what his parents or his family back in Ireland is just beyond belief,” he said.
“After the service they showed the slide show. It was just heartrending at the end.
“The last one was a picture of Pete holding a trophy he had won at lawn bowls just hours before his death.
“He was holding the trophy with one hand and waving with the other, it was almost as if he was waving goodbye.
“No-one could move after it finished, everyone just sat there. It was incredibly emotional.
“Afterwards the backpackers collected all the flowers and went down to the edge of the river and left the flowers where Peter had died,” he added.
The deceased man’s family, based in Pagestown, Kilcloon, Co Meath, had an opportunity to share in the memorial service celebrating his life in Australia via a Skype recording.
Mr Burke’s travelling companions are expected to accompany the remains back to Ireland later this week.
Funeral arrangements are being taken care of by William Ryan and Sons Funeral Directors, with details yet to be confirmed.