Emotional reunion as girl of 12 flies in to surprise her dying dad
A brave 12-year-old girl who flew from Cardiff on her own to surprise her terminally-ill dad at Christmas was among the thousands of emotional passengers who arrived in Belfast yesterday.
Karson Turner, whose dad Willie was diagnosed with lung cancer in August this year, was greeted at the airport by two nervous aunts who had not seen the youngster for almost 10 years.
Belinda Turner and Susan Quinn, both sisters of Willie, had tears in their eyes as they waited for Karson to come through arrivals at the City Airport.
Susan told the Belfast Telegraph it would be the first time the whole family would spend Christmas together in Portadown.
Father-of-five Willie was given the heart-breaking news that he had 18 months to live in August this year.
This Christmas could be the last one that Karson, who lives with her mum in Scotland, gets to spend with her dad.
She said: "The flight was okay and I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be. I'm just glad to be here and looking forward to spending Christmas in Northern Ireland with my dad."
Susan added: "Karson's poor mummy will have been in tears when she dropped her off at the airport, but we will make sure she has a good Christmas.
"It's a very emotional time for us all and I'm sure Karson is very nervous about meeting us. She probably doesn't remember us at all - she was just a baby when we last met."
But, nervous or not, Karson embraced her teary-eyed aunts when she arrived at the airport.
The sisters then drove Karson back to their home in Portadown to wait for dad, Willie, who had spent the morning getting chemotherapy.
After the emotional reunion, which Willie knew nothing about in advance, he told the Belfast Telegraph he "cried his eyes out" when he saw his eldest daughter.
"It was unbelievable," he said, "I had been getting chemotherapy and went to pick up my other kids from Susan's house after. The whole family was there and I couldn't work out why. Then I saw Karson and I just started crying.
"It has been a really emotional day for me and I'm quite overwhelmed by it all. My sisters surprised me with the best Christmas present I could ask for."
Karson had not seen her dad for eight years before they were reunited at the time of his diagnosis, and even then they only got to spend a handful of hours together.
"I've got her until December 30 now and I couldn't be happier," he said.
Belfast City Airport welcomed more than 10,000 passengers yesterday and will do the same again today, while Belfast international is also operating at capacity with about 120 flights every day.
Katy Best, commercial and marketing director at Belfast City Airport, said: "There's a great atmosphere around Christmas time in the airport and it has been even better this year because it hasn't been spoiled by bad weather and disruption.
"The good weather has been a Godsend for us and our staff and it will be great to see them all have a day off on Friday to spend with their own families after helping so many others to reunite with theirs."
Belfast International Airport managing director Graham Keddie added: "There's no better time to work here. There's a great sense of Christmas cheer as people arrive home to be reunited with their loved ones for Christmas."