'He was a true hero' ... family pay tribute to fireman after tragic death
The family of a "hero" firefighter who tragically died have paid tribute to "a remarkable and irreplaceable" man.
David Brown (54) was on a motorbike on the Magherafelt Road in Moneymore on Friday afternoon when he passed away.
Relatives said he died of a heart attack while on his bike.
A rapid response paramedic and emergency crew had been dispatched as well as the Air Ambulance, but his life could not be saved.
The grandfather of six served in the fire service for 22 years after leaving his role as a corporal in the Royal Marines to devote himself to his family.
His wife Geraldine (50) and wider family spoke to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday at their home in Magherafelt.
Geraldine said: "He wasn't just a father, he was a hero.
"He was truly a remarkable and irreplaceable man. A devoted father and grandfather, the loveliest, most caring and compassionate man you could ever meet. The fire service was his life. He was all about helping people and it was never about him."
Mr Brown's daughter Laura (31) said her father had always been safety-conscious on his motorcycle.
"It was a heart attack that killed him and it's just ironic because he could have been sitting on the sofa when it happened," she said.
"In true daddy style he loved the bikes and the sport of it.
"Being a firefighter and saving other people's lives, he wouldn't have wanted other people to have been involved on the road like another car crashing.
"Possibly for my daddy, this is the only way he would have wanted it, quick and sudden and nobody else involved while doing something that he absolutely loved."
She continued: "He was always the go-to person - no matter what, everybody phoned Davy Brown. If daddy couldn't do it, it couldn't be done."
Mr Brown's brother Derek (53) said his time in the Royal Marines had been something he cherished.
"Everything he did in life, he did by the Royal Marine code. It never left him," he said.
The family said he would often finish sentences with the Marine's official motto 'Per Mare Per Terram' which means By Sea By Land.
Laura said: "He sacrificed his career in the Marines to come home to be a dad to me and my brother and sister (Andrew and Emma)."
Geraldine added: "He's still a Royal Marine, he died a Royal Marine."
Mr Brown's first wife Janice (50), who is the mother of his children, was also among the wider family visiting yesterday.
Geraldine said the extended family all kept a close bond enjoying holidays away together and were united by her husband.
"We all felt the same way about him. He was our Dave," she said.
In recent years, Geraldine said faith had become especially important to her husband.
"In the last couple of years he gave his life to the Lord," she added.
"Anybody that knew him before felt he was a true testimony to someone changed by the hand of God.
"He always had faith but the last couple of years he wanted to put everything right and turned his life over to God. Now he's in heaven."
A family notice described Mr Brown as the "dearly loved husband" of Geraldine and a "loving and devoted" father of Laura, Emma and Andrew.
It added Mr Brown was the much loved son of Wendy and the late Dermot as well as brother to Michelle, Derek and the late Stephen.
He was also father-in-law to Ryan, Ryan and Rachel, and loving grandfather to Carly, Alfie, Freya, Jude, Jaxon and Emmie.
Mr Brown's colleagues in the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) said they were "deeply saddened" by the tragic loss.
A statement said: "Our sincerest sympathies are with David's wife Geraldine, his daughters Laura and Emma, his son Andrew and his colleagues and friends at Magherafelt Fire Station where he was based."
Mr Brown had joined the fire service on November 12, 1997 as a retained firefighter in Magherafelt Fire Station until he was promoted to the role of crew commander on July 12, 2012.
Over 22 years, they said he served the community in Magherafelt "with distinction," responding to incidents night and day.
The statement added he would be badly missed by his colleagues at Magherafelt Station and across NIFRS, and appropriate support would be provided to his family and colleagues.
Keith Buchanan, a DUP MLA for Mid-Ulster, said: "He came from a very well-known and respected family in the local area. His loss will be felt very deeply. It's a dreadful shock."
Other DUP councillors on Mid-Ulster council also expressed their sympathies to the family.
The funeral service takes place tomorrow at 2.15pm in Calvary Free Presbyterian Church, Magherafelt followed by burial in Polepatrick Cemetery.
Family flowers only have been requested. Donations, if desired, for Air Ambulance NI and NI Chest, Heart & Stroke.