MORE than 1,000 people will attend the funeral of two teenagers who drowned on a family holiday last month.

Cousins Joel Aniyankunju, 19, and Jason Vargese, 15, drowned whilst swimming in a lake in Vienna, Austria on Thursday, August 23.

The teenagers, from Farnworth, had been on a boat ride with family and had entered the water to cool down from the 30 degree heat.

Around 2pm, Jason began struggling to stay afloat and Joel swam towards him to help.

Joel reached for Jason and offered his hand, but the two boys sank below the surface.

The cousins failed to emerge and their bodies were discovered by police divers later that afternoon.

The Austrian authorities said the afternoon’s strong winds created a current which led to difficult swimming conditions.

The deaths have devastated Bolton’s close-knit Malayali community, of which they belonged.

Originating from the the Indian state of Kerala, Bolton’s Malayali community consists of nearly 100 families, most of whom will be attending the boys’ funeral.

In addition, hundreds of mourners from Malayali communities across the UK will visit Bolton to attend the service at Our Lady of Lourdes & Saint Gregory’s church on Saturday.

A live stream will also broadcast the service to family in India and Europe.

Family friend, Suresh Daniel, paid tribute to the boys ahead of Saturday’s service.

He said: “Joel and Jason were inseparable. They were always on the same wavelength.

“Joel always had time for the younger children in our community. They looked up to him and followed his example.

“He was a role-model, not just for Jason, but to all the children in our community.

“He was a born leader and he was destined to become a leader of our community here in Bolton.”

Mr Suresh said 15-year-old Jason followed his older cousin’s example by becoming a mentor to younger children at St George Indian Orthodox Church.

He added: “Jason saw it as his duty to look out for the younger children, and set an example for them, just as Joel did for him.

A joint service will be held at 10am on Saturday, September 8 at Our Lady of Lourdes church, Plodder Lane, Farnworth.

Burial will follow at Overdale Cemetery, Heaton at 2pm.