The coffins of David and Kevin Breen are carried by their brothers and friends

The sun shone on St Mary's Cathedral in Killarney yesterday morning for the funeral mass of brothers 17-year-old David and 15-year-old Kevin Breen, who died in last week's car crash outside the Co Kerry town.

A congregation of over 400 mourners was in attendance following the previous evening's removal when over 1,000 people came to pay their respects.

Fr Gerard O'Leary led seven other priests in concelebrating the funeral rite. Just below the altar, in front of the bereaved family, the two coffins sat side by side.

In his introductory remarks, he mentioned the message of support offered to the family from President Mary McAleese, and the messages of condolence from the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal, which had recently lost its young in another car accident.

The brothers were killed along with two other friends early last Wednesday morning when the Hyundai Accent in which they were travelled left the N72 Killarney-to-Barraduff Road. On Friday, 15-year-old Áine Riordan was laid to rest in Castleisland. She and David Breen had been in a relationship for some time.

Yesterday also saw the funeral of 19-year-old Brian Coffey in Fossa parish church, outside Killarney. The sole survivor of the one-car crash, 16-year-old Darragh Jones from Farranfore, is still recovering in Tralee General Hospital.

The chief mourners at St Mary's Cathedral yesterday were David and Kevin's parents Sheila and Denis, along with siblings Michael, 21, Denis, 19, Mary, 11, and three-year-old Bill.

Earlier last week, Sheila Breen recalled how her two sons had left home on Tuesday evening in great form. Their friends called for them and the group left for just another night of teenage fun and socialising. The crash occurred at 7.10am the following morning when, on a bad turn, the car left the road and hit a tree.

Fr O'Leary began his homily by referring to the feelings in the town last Wednesday when news of an accident and young lives lost began to spread.

"Deep inside we knew that it could be my story – my son or daughter, brother or sister, relative or friend – and we ask the question secretly, how would I cope?

"We think of the times when we too had near-misses, when I was too tired to drive safely, when I was speeding or showing off, or simply not paying attention to my driving, when I put my own life and that of others at risk. We quickly realise how lucky we are to be alive but we must all learn that human life is so sacred and we as human beings are so fragile and we need to care for ourselves and others."

He went on to say the brothers would be remembered for the happy times they had while they were growing up.

"Kevin and David will be remembered best for their sense of joy and fun. Their family came first and they enjoyed a very close relationship with all the family but gave special attention to Billy, their youngest brother, bringing him in on the bar of the bike to the local shop and giving him sweets."

The chief celebrant also made reference to "a darkness coming over the land" as a result of the deaths.

"God did not abandon Kevin and David last Wednesday morning, as he was with them throughout their lives and so too was he with them at the hour of their death."

The prayers of the faithful included prayers for the other bereaved families and for "Darragh Jones, as we ask the Lord to be with him in his sufferings and grant him a full recovery".

A large proportion of those in attendance were teenagers. The funerals yesterday and on Friday were the latest from that demographic lost to carnage on the nation's roads. This end-of-life rite for dead teenagers and 20-somethings has now become an abnormal ritual that blights rural Ireland. Wasted decades are mourned, instead of lives lived by a deceased of mature years being celebrated. Parents march after the coffins of children barely out the far side of the nurturing years. The friends and siblings left behind are forced to grapple too soon with the concept that, no, they will not live forever, that death has no special respect for youth. And life is turned on its head as the community is left numbed by an outrage against the natural order of things.

In Castleisland alone, Áine Riordan was the fifth young person to die in a road traffic accident in the past three years. Two of the other deceased were from the same housing estate where she lived.

After communion, the white cloths were removed from the coffins. Fr O'Leary took a moment to offer thanks on behalf of the Breen family to all who had helped them through recent days, including the emergency services who attended the scene of the accident.

Then, at the conclusion of the mass, as the funeral bells tolled, family members and relatives of the brothers shouldered the two coffins and carried them down through the congregation on their final journey.

The coffins were placed in two hearses, which bore floral tributes to each in their respective names.

The cortège left the cathedral and proceeded on foot up through the town of Killarney, en route to Kilcummin cemetery where the brothers were laid to rest.