Shire community thanked for 'unbelievable' support following Danielle McGrath tragedy

Family heartbreak: Front: Joan (Danielle's grandmother), Helen, Shannen, Samantha and Bill.  Back: Alex (Will's girlfriend), Aaron, Will (brother), Clint (brother-in-law) and Liam (Aaron's brother). Picture: Chris Lane

Family heartbreak: Front: Joan (Danielle's grandmother), Helen, Shannen, Samantha and Bill. Back: Alex (Will's girlfriend), Aaron, Will (brother), Clint (brother-in-law) and Liam (Aaron's brother). Picture: Chris Lane

Danielle McGrath’s family and partner Aaron Roberts have spoken of their heartbreak at losing “a unique, beautiful soul” while thanking the community and authorities for their “overwhelming” support.

Ms McGrath, 26, died after being hit by an earthmoving truck towing a trailer on a Caringbah pedestrian crossing a fortnight ago.

More than 1200 people attended one of the biggest funeral services seen in the shire at Holy Family Church, Menai.

Ms McGrath’s father Bill said later words could not convey the gratitude of the two families for the support they had received, which included messages, flowers and practical help from “complete strangers”.

Funeral service booklet.

Funeral service booklet.

Mr Roberts said support “from the people of Illawong, Menai, Barden Ridge and Caringbah, indeed the whole of the shire, has been unbelievable”.

Ms McGrath’s mother Helen said, “We knew how much Danielle was loved by her family, but we didn’t know she was loved as much throughout the community”.

“But, you couldn’t help but love her – if you met her, you would love her straight away”.

“I just wake up every day and think, ‘No this hasn’t happened’,” she said.

“Danielle was such a good person and it shouldn’t have happened, and happened in that way”.

Ms McGrath’s older sister Samantha said she was “a bit scared to look at Facebook, but the posts are incredible”.

“We will never be able to move on,” she said. “Life will be very different, but we have to remember what Danielle was like, a unique, beautiful soul.

“She was constantly happy, she loved everybody and never said a bad word about anyone.

“She told you how much she loved you, and showed you too with a kiss or cuddle, which could be embarrassing in the middle of K Mart or at lunch or dinner.”

Mr McGrath said police from Miranda and Sutherland were “just incredible”.

“As much as we wanted to be by Danielle’s side, we understood protocols had to be put in place,” he said.

“We also thank Sarah from the coroner’s office for her care.”

Mr McGrath praised businesses near the scene, singling out Peter Kiss, of Aussie Homes Loans, who “opened his doors and gave us a place for privacy”.

Both families have many connections, and Mr McGrath and Mr Roberts thanked their networks of friends..

The McGraths have lived in Illawong for 30 years, and Danielle and her siblings, Samantha, Shannen and William, attended Illawong Primary School and Menai High School.

Mr Roberts lived in Barden Ridge before he and Danielle bought a unit in Caringbah.

“We had family members and friends contacting us every minute, every second,” Mr McGrath said.

“Over five days, 600-700 people came to our house, some staying for seconds or minutes and others for hours, but all giving us the support we needed.

“Straight after the accident, at least 100 people congregated at the home of Aaron’s parents David and Leanne, who live at Caringbah.”

“No words can help, but the faces are what count.”

Mr McGrath said they received enormous support from local businesses, with Espressa cafe at Illawong at the forefront.

“People I had never met before turned up at our house with food, flowers and candles, we were invited to restaurants and Tranquil Elements sent a team around to do our gardens and lawns.

“Sheridan and her team at White Lady Funerals Sutherland were the backbone behind our two families, Helen’s cousin Father Chris Roberts came from Kiama to conduct the service and Holy Family parish was very helpful.

“Big Picture put up plasma TV screens outside the church because of the large numbers, and Mara and Paul at Bangor Tavern, where we gathered afterwards, went way beyond all expectations.

“We also thank Platinum Shuttles, who transported family members.”

Mr McGrath said TV production company Endemol Shine Australia, where Danielle worked as a business support co-ordinator, was very supportive and also created the butterflies on the traffic light posts at the accident scene.

About 50 staff from the company’s North Sydney office attended the funeral.

Mr McGrath said community groups they wished to thank included Menai Physical Culture, Barden Ridgebacks Football Club and Aquinas Colts Junior Rugby League Club.

 Mr McGrath said they planned to use some of the $63,000 donated in a crowdfunding campaign, started by a friend, to provide a beautiful headstone and also a seat either at Woronora Cemetery or at one of Danielle’s favourite spots in the shire for people to sit and reflect.

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