Soldier’s brother “heartbroken” over death

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By Cara Sulieman

THE “heartbroken” brother of tragic soldier Christopher O’Kane said that his brother was an “amazing guy” today.

Michael O’Kane, 28, explained how his younger brother had cheated death many times before the accident at the weekend and said his premature death made “no sense”.

And Christopher’s ex-fiancee spoke about how the 26-year-old was dedicated to his family, including his 17-month-old goddaughter.

“Wonderful guy”

Michael said: “It’s just a living nightmare. We are all heartbroken.

“Chris was like my twin, we were so close and he was just an amazing, wonderful guy.

“He cheated death so many times. It always felt like he had a guardian angel looking out for him because he fought in so many places and saw so many horrors yet he always came back.

“He was in a serious car accident in January and he just got up and walked away.

“For him to die like this makes no sense.”

Stacey Valentine – who Christopher had lived with for seven years in Port Seton before they broke up last October – said that the thoughtful soldier still made time for his goddaughter, Stacey’s little sister Kate.

“Ambition”

She added: “He joined the army because he wanted to keep his family safe and he wanted them to be proud of him and earn their respect.

“His ambition was to eventually leave the army and open a garage with his cousin Thomas.”

Christopher – known to his friends as Spud – was on Easter leave when the accident happened on Sunday morning.

He had been out for a late birthday celebration with friends when he fell from the rickshaw in the Festival Square area of Lothian Road at around 2.20am on Sunday morning.

The mechanic, who served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, was rushed to hospital but died on Monday at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Christopher was based at Southampton with 17 Port and Maritime regiment and had been visiting his family in Scotland when the accident happened.

“No justice”

The tragic accident has brought back painful memories for the close-knit family, as Christopher’s mum, Helen, died in a traffic accident 16 years ago.

She had just got out of a taxi on the A1 close to its junction with the A1087 near Dunbar and was trying to flag down a lift when she was hit by a lorry.

The 37-year-old was fatally injured in the crash on January 27, 1994.

Christopher’s maternal aunt, Georgina Naylor, said: “There is no justice in the world.

“He may have been a soldier but he didn’t have a violent bone in his body – he would never have harmed anybody and we were so proud of him.

“His family were everything to him and he was so precious to us all.

“It was like fate had been waiting for him ever since his mother died – perhaps he was supposed to have gone that day and we’ve just been lucky that someone chose to let him have those extra 16 years.

“To have two family members die in accidents involving taxis, it just seems so unbelievable.”

“Rising star”

Christopher joined the army when he was 16 and had risen to the rank of corporal with the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, serving with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

His military career started with the Royal Scots at Dreghorn barracks before he was transferred to Southampton, and he completed tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Simon T Hutchings, MBE RLC, paid tribute to the “rising star”.

Lieutenant Hutchings said: “Chris was without question one of the best junior non-commissioned officers in 17 Port and Maritime Regiment.

“His was a rising star and, as a consequence, he’d got himself noticed for all the right reasons.

“As a new Commanding Officer it takes time to recognise, by name, those under ones command. Corporal O’Kane was the exception.

“Whilst in Cyprus conducting an infantry exercise, Corporal O’Kane stood out immediately.

“He was fitter, by far, than almost everyone else; his leadership was inspiring and he was decisive in thought and deed.

“I admired him”

“I was immediately impressed by him, he was clearly a man that was destined for great things.

“He genuinely epitomised the type of soldier any commander would dearly love to have in their unit.

“Operationally focused, he was proud to be a REME Craftsman, he possessed that non-defeatist attitude that gave him the edge when faced with adversity.

“His self-confidence shone through when I met him in a more social setting, he chatted freely and was not afraid to express his well reasoned views – I admired him for that.

“I can speak for the Regiment when I say that there exists a void left by Corporal O’Kane’s untimely passing, he will be remembered with fondness amongst his Marchwood family.”

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