Co Down family tell of devastation following sudden death of 'brilliant' grandfather while on holiday in Spain
THE family of a Co Down man have told of their devastation following his sudden death while on holiday in Spain.
Jim Thompson, who lived in Killyleagh, had travelled to Benidorm with his son, James and two other family members for a two week holiday on June 9.
The 56-year-old, who was a former grounds-keeper, had been left to the airport by another son, David, who said his father had been "laughing and joking" as he went to catch his flight.
However, eight days into the holiday on June 17, David received a call informing him that his father had died suddenly of a heart attack.
The 36-year-old, who lived with his father, said his family had been left "devastated" by the news.
David, a father-of-three, revealed that his father had only experienced his first foreign holiday last summer and had enjoyed Benidorm so much, on his return had booked to return this year with his younger brother, James.
"I left him to the airport on Saturday, June 9. He was away with my brother James, my aunt and uncle, his brother and sister-in-law," he said.
"They couldn't wait. My brother loved it last year. He loved spending time with dad, relaxing and having a few beers in the sun."
David said on the day his father died, he had gone for a lie-down after returning from being out.
"They were out that day for lunch, went back to read the paper and watch football," he said.
However Mr Thompson said that when his brother checked on their father he found him unresponsive.
Despite efforts to save the 56-year-old grandfather, he passed away.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, David and his family were assisted by the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, a Co Down-based charity which helps families bring home the bodies of loved ones who have died overseas.
David said the trust had been "brilliant".
"We couldn't praise them enough. (They) sorted everything," he said.
David described his father as someone who was "fun loving".
"He was always happy-go-lucky," he said.
"He loved the craic and winding people up. He had a heart of gold. He loved the grand-kids. He was brilliant with them.
"He would have done anything for you. He really was a top man."
He added: "I don't think it has hit us yet. It is devastating, at 56, he was a young man.
"You just don't expect to get that phone call. I dropped him off on holiday, he said to me look after the dog, `see you in two weeks', laughing and joking. To get that news is absolutely devastating."
Mr Thompson will be buried today at First Killyleagh Presbyterian graveyard following a funeral service at 11am at Charles Rourke and Sons' Funeral Church in Downpatrick.