THE heartbroken father of a young Coleraine man who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in a small town in central France has described him as “a great wee fella” with his whole life ahead of him.
Jimmy Henry spoke to The Coleraine Times following the funeral of his son, Jamie Henry, a 21-year-old volunteer firefighter, in the Limousin town of Peyrat-le-Chateau last Monday.
Jamie’s body was found by his firefighting colleagues in his town square apartment on the morning on Wednesdsay, April 27. He and his dog Daisy are thought to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning from the fumes of a chip pan.
The entire town closed down for the deeply moving crematorium service which attracted hundreds of people, many of them Pompiers colleagues of Jamie’s.
Speaking on behalf of his wife Michelle and daughter Toni, Jimmy, a former manager at JJB Sports in Coleraine, said the family were “demented” at the loss of such a wonderful young man.
“Our hearts have been knocked out of us, it’s so hard to explain.
“Jamie was given a wonderful send off, there’s never been a funeral like it here. The whole town shut down for the day.
“He was given a full guard of honour by the Pompiers with standard bearers and they carried him in and out of the church in the town square close to where his apartment was.
“Many of the guards who knew Jamie were in bits. During the service ‘Danny Boy’ was played and also ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, which Jamie loved and the service was conducted mostly in French but in English also.
“The fire departments in the region all sent representatives and they all paid their respects and shook hands with us. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, it was just incredible.”
Jimmy said he was very proud of Jamie who was carving out a very bright future for himself in France.
“He had his whole life ahead of him. I run a property development company here and Jamie was doing dry lining and had set up his own sub contracting company and was doing very well.
“He also had his wee apartment here in the town square and was hoping to go into the dog search and rescue service.
“He would happily translate for English people moving into the area and never take a penny for it, that’s just the kind of person he was.
“He was a great wee fella, absolutely genuine, happy and content, always smiling. The whole thing is just unreal.
“We are very well settled here, the area is beautiful and we have a lot of friends here.
“Jamie loved France and had he lived he would have made his life here. We have no intention of leaving either.”
Last week the Mayor of Peyrat-le-Chateau, Michel Ballot, said Jamie’s death had shattered the close knit town.
“His death has affected all the people of the town. He had many friends at Peyrat. He was a good guy, really nice.”
A psychological unit was also set up at the fire barracks in Peyrat as a support to Jamie’s young colleagues, one of whom suffered the effects of gas inhalation at the scene.