Dec. 24 (UPI) -- A cross-continental friendship being celebrated along with Christmas in Newfoundland began with a message in a bottle and a young girl's tragic accident.
Patrick Dennis said he found a message in a bottle on the shore of Tenerife, a Spanish island off the coast of West Africa, in 2002 and attempted to contact the Newfoundland girl who authored the note.
The letter, signed by 5-year-old Siobhane Riggs, had been tossed into the water off the Nova Scotia coast and made its way across the ocean.
"I felt very very privileged and lucky," Dennis told CBC News. "In fact, the messages were addressed to 'the lucky person.' And I felt very lucky."
Dennis called the number on the letter and was told by Carolanne Riggs, Siobhane's mother, that the girl had died in an accident at the age of 6 earlier that year.
"I didn't believe what I was hearing," Dennis told VOCM. "I went from being on top of the world to ... absolute tragedy."
The two struck up a friendship and Riggs ended up visiting Dennis and his family in the Canary Islands in 2004 and 2017.
Dennis and his family traveled to Newfoundland this month, taking Riggs up on a longstanding invitation for the families to spend Christmas together.
"Siobhane would be very happy," Riggs said. "She wanted to celebrate Christmas, everybody's birthday, everything had to be a celebration.
"I really do feel that this message landing over in Tenerife and Patrick getting this bottle and making this connection gives me some closure. It gives me a closure that she's not far. She is always here with us," she said.