A young Coleraine man has died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in a small town in central France.
The funeral of Jamie Henry, a 21-year-old volunteer firefighter, took place in the small Limousin town of Peyrat-le-Chateau on Monday.
Firefighting colleagues found Jamie’s body in his apartment in the heart of the town, located on a church square above a hairdressing salon, last Tuesday morning.
Jamie’s uncle Kenny, speaking from France on Sunday, said the entire family were devastated by the tragedy.
“Jamie came home on Monday evening and put the chip pan on on top of the cooker. He lay down and fell asleep with his dog Daisy.
“The chips were not even in the pan and when the oil evaporated it caused the carbon monoxide fumes.
“He was a young man who had achieved so much in his life. It’s absolutely horrendous. His parents, Jimmy and Michelle, will never get over it.”
Kenny, who is in France along with another brother, Raymond, said Jamie’s death had deeply shocked the close knit community who count the Henry family as one of their own.
“The whole town will close down for the funeral and all the emergency services will all be going, with Pompiers from other areas called in for emergency cover. There hasn’t been a funeral like this in France for decades. Jamie will be buried in his uniform.”
Jamie’s grandmother Eileen Patton and her three sisters flew to France at the weekend to be with the family, who moved to the Limousin region six years ago. Michelle’s sisters also attended the service.
Speaking to The Coleraine Times before leaving for France, Mrs Patton said: “When Jamie didn’t show up the next day his sister Toni, who lives in Germany, tried to reach him on Facebook, saying that his mum and dad were looking for him.
“When Michelle went round to his flat it was cordoned off with the emergency services there. The neighours had smelled gas coming from the building.
“Michelle doesn’t know how she will go on but I have told her she has to be strong for her daughter Toni. Jamie was a lovely young fella and was doing really well in the fire service, having been made a corporal. He never gave his parents any trouble.
“A priest was holding a service on Friday for him and his cremation service is on Monday.”
Jamie’s sister, Toni (Henry) Evangelista, also travelled from Germany, where she lives with her husband, so she could be with her parents.
“I love you Jamie rip wee bro why did u leave me x,” she wrote on her brother’s web page.
Mayor of Peyrat-le-Chateau, Michel Ballot, said the tragedy had shattered the small rural town with a population of around a thousand people.
He said: “According to the pathologist, his death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. His death has affected all the people of the town.
“He had many friends at Peyrat. He worked as a bricklayer with his father and was a volunteer fireman. He was a good guy, really nice.
“Jamie was meant to meet his dad in the morning for work and when he didn’t show up, or answer his calls, a lot of people became worried and they went to his flat to find him.
“They noticed a bit of smoke in the house so they called the fire brigade - Jamie’s friends found him in the living room around 11.30am, it was too late to save him - he is believed to have died around 5am.
“His colleagues were so distraught that a second fire brigade from a different town took over the situation. We are all very saddened by this terrible incident.”
Journalist Franck Lagier said lots of English people live in the area.
“Jamie was really integrated here, had a girlfriend and spoke good French. He also helped the firemen from Pompiers de l’urgence Internationale (PUI) to translate some documents to get an accreditation from the United Nations to go on earthquakes duty.”
Once Jamie’s body was discovered police forensic officers sealed off the area and carried out a number of tests inside the flat.
A psychological unit was also set up at the barracks in Peyrat as a support to Jamie’s young colleagues, one of whom suffered the effects of gas inhalation at the scene.
Mr Lagier said 90 people die each year in France from carbon monoxide poisoning.