Pensioner falls 30ft to death in church

A CHURCH community is in mourning today after its 80-year-old verger plunged 30ft to his death during a marriage ceremony.

Dave Gooderham

A CHURCH community is in mourning today after its 80-year-old verger plunged 30ft to his death during a marriage ceremony.

Warm tributes have been paid to Jack Sturgeon who died after ringing the bells of St Mary's Church in Mildenhall for the service.

It is believed Mr Sturgeon, who colleagues described as a humble man, had climbed to an upper level of the church tower to look at the clock when he fell.

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Off-duty firefighters, who were part of the marital congregation, 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 was unclear last night whether this caused him to fall off the ladder or whether it had happened after.

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The Reverend Stefanie Hodges, team vicar in Mildenhall, said: “This is such a shock and we are all absolutely devastated by this tragedy.

“Jack was a very humble man who would do anything for anyone and he will be sadly missed. All our thoughts and prayers are with his widow, Beryl, at this very sad time.”

Fire crews from Mildenhall, Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds were called to the church, along with road and air paramedics, at about 2.15pm on Saturday.

It is believed Mr Sturgeon had finished ringing the bells for the marriage ceremony and had then proceeded to climb a second set of stairs within the tower to gain access to the clock.

Assistant Divisional Officer Pat Dacey, of Suffolk Fire Service, said: “It was when the deceased climbed to the second floor, a kind of mezzanine floor, that he fell.

“He sustained serious injuries which ultimately proved fatal. Although it is impossible to know where exactly he fell from, it could have been as much as 30ft.

“Some off-duty firefighters had attended the wedding and were able to provide immediate assistance and we would like to commend them for their swift actions.

“Our primary role was working with the paramedics to get him down but unfortunately he died very shortly after the accident.”

A spokesman for the East Anglian Ambulance Trust said the Anglia One helicopter had attended the scene and landed at nearby Riverside Middle School but was not used.

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