Newly-weds tell of church fall tragedy

A NEWLY married couple have told how their dream wedding was turned to tragedy after a church verger fell 30ft to his death just minutes after they tied the knot.

Dave Gooderham

A NEWLY married couple have told how their dream wedding was turned to tragedy after a church verger fell 30ft to his death just minutes after they tied the knot.

Bride and Groom, Kelly Brown and Brian Keane, and their guests had just left St Mary's Church, Mildenhall, when 80-year-old Jack Sturgeon suffered the fall in the church tower.

Mr Keane, a retained fire-fighter and Forest Heath district councillor, revealed he and his wife were not immediately told about the tragedy, which happened as Mr Sturgeon's wife, Beryl, 81, was in the church helping to clear up.

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He told the EADT: “I didn't know much about what had happened at the time but it is just a total shock and we are both very upset about what happened.

“One of my best men was a sub officer and he said he would deal with it. I was then told about it when we got to the reception. I didn't tell Kelly until later that evening and we both can't believe what happened.

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“I know Jack has given a great service to the church over many years and when we met him on Thursday evening, he made everything very special for me and Kelly. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

The couple yesterday left flowers in Mr Sturgeon's memory outside the church.

It is believed Mr Sturgeon had climbed to an upper level of the church tower to look at the clock when he fell.

Off-duty fire-fighters, who were part of the wedding parry, dashed to his aid but he was pronounced dead as further emergency services - including the air ambulance - arrived at the scene.

It is thought Mr Sturgeon suffered a heart attack but it is not known whether this was prior to the fall or as a result of it.

Speaking about the newly married couple, Rev Stefanie Hodges, Mildenhall team vicar, said: “They are local people and they have been left devastated. They'll never ever forget what happened on what should have been the happiest day of their lives.

“I wasn't taking the wedding and when I was told I felt as if I had been hit by a train. Jack's wife Beryl was downstairs in church helping to clear up after the wedding as usual when he fell.

“She was kept back from going to him and taken care of by people in the church. Beryl has a strong faith just like Jack but her life has just collapsed.”

Paying tribute to Mr Sturgeon, who had worked as an engineer in Parker's Mill, Mildenhall, before retirement, Mrs Hodges said: “He was a lovely dignified man - the sort of person who turned on the lights when he walked into a room.

“Jack was wholly dependable and totally devoted to the church. He had been a bell ringer for 40 years and was methodical and very highly organised - we could all rely on him 100%.

“All we can say is that at least he died doing what he loved best in our church, a place he loved. I'm not sure yet if I'll be taking Jack's funeral but it would be an honour if I did - although it would be a very emotional day.”

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