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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

Butterfly Jess remembered 20 years on

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Jessica Donnelly was one of four young people who died in a tragic house fire twenty years ago today.

Twenty years ago today Byron grieved for four young people who died in a house fire that ripped through a block of units at 20 Fletcher Street Byron Bay. Jessica Donnelly, 14, Jessica Healy, 16, Roseanna Chambers, 16 and Scott Bridge, 19 all died in the fire.

They are being remembered today by family and friends who continued to feel their loss.

Even after 20 years the memory lives deep in my heart of the night that tragically stole our children from us,’ said Jessica Donnelly’s mother Linda.

‘Four friends in the early hours of the morning died together. The hole in our hearts and lives is with us every living moment that we carry on trying to live without Jessica. The years have taken their toll on everyone in all different ways.

‘To reflect on Jessie’s life in Byron brings us peace. “She loved to live and she lived to love” are the words on her headstone…

Jess had spent lots of time helping her mum with her Byron business and ‘was well known for her kindness and wisdom even at such a young age’ remembered her mum.

Known throughout the town as Butterfly Jess and Byron Jess she was vibrant and full of life.

‘Her funeral stopped Byron Bay businesses as she was taken through the streets she loved,’ recalls Linda.

‘Hundreds came to throw flowers on the hearse as it passed. Byron High School (where she had been a student) lined the street, the police provided the escort and the whole town stopped as we all walked her beloved streets of her town behind the hearse on her final farewell. She rests in the Byron cemetery in the town she loved.

‘I like to think she still walks those streets, dances, plays guitar at the top park and has a smile for everyone.’

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