Belfast Telegraph

Conor McCollum 'lived life to the full', says heartbroken mum after death of DJ son in Spain

Conor McCollum with his mum Oonaugh McNaughton
Conor McCollum with his mum Oonaugh McNaughton
Conor McCollum
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

The heartbroken mother of a DJ who died suddenly on holiday in Spain said nothing could have prepared her for the devastation of losing her popular young son who loved life.

Conor McCollum (34), from Carnlough, was on a trip with his stepfather to watch this year's Valencia MotoGP when he passed away without warning in his sleep on Friday.

His grieving mum Oonaugh McNaughton (58), a senior care co-ordinator, said her son had an underlying heart condition and she revealed that a Spanish doctor said his death had been caused by a pulmonary embolism.

Mrs McNaughton fought back tears as she told how it was Conor's stunned stepdad Dominic who discovered him dead in bed, and she said that family and friends will never forget the Co Antrim man's radiant smile.

"Conor lived life to the full - he always said he wasn't here on earth for a long time, he was here for a good time," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He had lots of friends and he loved spending time with them.

"He enjoyed partying and the good life. And he really loved motorbikes.

"One of the things on Conor's bucket list was to meet [Italian professional road racer and multiple MotoGP World Champion] Valentino Rossi and he did that.

"He met him in the paddock in Valencia just days before he died."

Mrs McNaughton, who jumped on a flight to Spain on Friday immediately after she heard what had happened, said Conor's two children had been told the tragic news about their father.

"Their mums have told them what has happened and they'll help them through it," she said.

"The doctor said he passed away around 11am on Friday.

"They hadn't been out the night before.

"They'd watched TV and gone to bed.

"But when Dominic went to wake him in the morning he was dead. He'd heard him snoring not long before that so it was a real shock.

"He'd had a heart attack."

She added: "You can never be prepared for something like this. I'm still trying to take it in. It's so unreal at the minute."

Mrs McNaughton, who has two daughters, Kerry (39) and Danielle (25), and another son, Gary (37), said she and Conor, her third child, had an "exceptionally close" bond.

"He used to tell me he loved me about 44 times a day and he always joked that he knew he was my favourite child," she said.

Mum-of-four Oonaugh said that Conor spent time both at home in Northern Ireland and at her house in Torrevieja, Spain, where he had previously had an accident.

"He had broken his ankle and damaged a heart valve during an incident three or four years ago, but he didn't let it hold him back," she said.

"He talked to everybody. He was very outgoing. He raced motorbikes, too. From now on every time I see a motorbike I'll think of him."

Mrs McNaughton and her eldest daughter Kerry, who have both been in Spain making preparations to bring Conor's body home, are due to fly into Northern Ireland today.

She added that Conor's father Malcolm and his stepdad will return home with the remains of her youngest son later in the week.

They have been assisted by the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, a Newry-based charity that helps bereaved families in their darkest hour.

"We're just waiting for the body to be released," she said.

"It hasn't been easy but the trust has been brilliant and we've got everything sorted now.

"It's an absolutely terrific organisation."

The last time Mrs McNaughton spoke to Conor alive, she said it was to book a return flight to Northern Ireland on his behalf.

"I told him that he owed me money for the ticket - little did I know that would be the last conversation we'd ever have," she said.

She also revealed that the whole family had made plans to spend the December holiday together at her Spanish residence.

"Conor was coming out for Christmas and they were all bringing their bikes and they were all really looking forward to it," she said.

"But now I'm taking things a minute at a time ... it's even too early to say about the funeral."

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