The devastated father of miracle skydiver Paul McMahon has paid tribute to a “fantastic son”.
The body of the 29-year old ex-soldier from Castlederg was found in his car in the Ballintrain Road area of Sixmilecross last Tuesday.
Last summer Paul cheated death during a parachute jump over a desert in California. He was placed on a life-support machine after the accident and amazed medics with his brave battle for recovery.
Speaking for the first time about his son’s death, Paul’s father Victor revealed the family is struggling to come to terms with what has happened.
Victor told the Sunday Life that while Paul’s death remains a mystery, he is adamant his son did not take his own life.
Hundreds of people attended Paul’s funeral in his home town at the weekend — including his mother Betty who is currently fighting cancer and his younger brother Mark.
Speaking after results from an autopsy proved inconclusive, Victor said: “Paul’s death is just a mystery to us but we don’t think for a second that he took his own life.
“He was just so determined to make a life for himself in 2009.
“He was walking with the aid of crutches, he was back driving again and it was great for us to see him getting a bit better every day.
“Paul had been a bit down recently but anyone in his situation would have felt the same.
“He was just so active before his accident and it was hard for him to be stuck in the house all the time.
“He fought to get back walking again and we were all just so proud of him. He was a great son and brother.
“We are all just distraught at the moment and we can’t believe this has happened — especially with the year we’ve just had.”
Victor also hit out at media reports in the wake of Paul’s death that he had been drinking heavily and using heroin.
Revealing the headlines were extremely hurtful at such a painful time for the family, Victor said: “People shouldn’t listen to malicious rumours and if they want to know how Paul died then they will have to wait until the post-mortem results come back.
“We are trying to deal with the loss of my eldest child and I think we have suffered enough in the last year without hearing people trying to ruin Paul’s name.”
Following his accident in America, Paul broke both his legs, shattered his pelvis and lost six pints of blood. He lay in a coma for three days before coming round and contracted the MRSA bug whilst being treated in hospital.