Tributes to ‘unforgettable’ David Crockett, who died while coming to aid of son in tragic farm accident
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Police said they attended the scene of the sudden death of a man at a property in the Coshquin Road area of Londonderry shortly before 5pm on Monday.
The death is not being treated as suspicious and the Health and Safety Executive has been informed.
David Crockett was in his late 50s, was married to Margaret and is survived by their three children, Gordon, who works the family farm, Lewis, who is a chef in Londonderry, and Rebecca who is just about to start university.
James Buchanan, clerk of session at Burt Presbyterian Church in Co Donegal, which the family attended, said: “I am not sure if the rafters broke or what happened. But his son Gordon was on the roof, I think he was covering a corrugated perspex sheet with a tin sheet and got into difficulty. His father got up on a ladder to help but then part of the roof collapsed and both men fell.”
Mr Buchanan added: “I grew up on a farm myself and I know my father and David’s father were both the same, they were both very handy in getting jobs done around the farm. And David would have been just the same, very handy.”
It is understood that his son Gordon survived with minor injuries to his ankle and wrist.
“If you go to that home you get a very warm welcome. But it was such a sad house this morning [Tuesday],” Mr Buchanan added.
Gordon is “a big strong fella” who could shear about 130 sheep a day, he said.
“It is very sad but the wider family will support them through this. Normally at a time like this you would be shaking hands and hugging the family but you can’t do that now, which is quite difficult.
“But I am sure the local ladies in the church will be supporting Margaret through this time.”
Mr Crockett was a member of the choir and the committee at the Donegal church. And Mr Buchanan had been a leader in the church youth club which David attended as a youth around 1970-1971.
“I have known him for about 45 years,” Mr Buchanan said. “When you met David Crockett you would never really forget him. He was a special in the way he talked to you, the warmth of his conversation, his laughter and stories.
“His father and my father were a couple of raconteurs too.”
Mr Crockett always had plenty of stories about farming and life on the border, he said.
“He was a very warm man. Every time you met him he would have had a smile on his face. And he was a great guy for telling stories.
“I don’t think he would have had a bad word to say about anyone, nor would anyone else about him. They are a highly respected family in the community by all sides of the house. They are a very strong church-going, Christian family.
Mr Crockett had begun to feature prominently in the media during Brexit as his farm straddles the Londonderry-Donegal border. BBC Radio Foyle broadcaster Mark Patterson, who had interviewed him, also paid tribute to Mr Crockett yesterday.
“Down the years, he had become part of our broadcast family,” he said. “One day back in 2017 we took the whole show out to the farm for a special outside broadcast. Davy treated us all to strong tea, fresh brown bread and jam.
“The border runs right through the Crockett family farm, and down the years Davy often brought his unique colour and understanding to bear on air when it came to complex matters like the border and Brexit.
“That aside, he was a wonderful man; devoted to his family, strong handed, warm and funny. You met Davy once and never forgot the encounter. All of us who worked with Davy are numbed today. We extend our sincere condolences to the Crockett family and wider circle.”
One eye-witness said they saw the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance at the scene of the accident. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death.
Rev David Latimer, retired minister of First Derry Presbyterian Church, also paid tribute to the family.
Mr Crockett’s brother John is a member of Monreagh Presbyterian church in Co Donegal where Rev Latimer was minister for 32 years.
“The Crocketts are widely renowned for their farming skills, greatly respected for their cross-border friendships, and highly regarded as good neighbours,” Rev Latimer said.
“The family are so relieved they are not mourning two deaths.”
DUP alderman David Ramsey went to school with Mr Crockett and his wife Margaret, but later moved to the Waterside area of the city.
“They are a lovely family,” he said. “The Crocketts were always such hard workers. This is a real tragedy.”
Mr Crockett’s family farmed the land near Coshquin Road for generations.
“My grandfather’s name was Henry Crockett,” Mr Crockett told The News Letter in 2017.
“He had come from farming stock in Donegal. There were about seven or eight of them and he went into Derry to work, him and his brother.
“Henry worked in the shirt factory. He came in and bought this land in 1911, just before the First World War. His health was affected big time – by the bureaucracy, the customs men.”
A neighbour, who did not want to be named, described Mr Crockett as the “kindest person you could meet”. “He would always take time to say hello if you saw him.
“He was a real family man and such a hard worker – it’s a sad day for the communities on both sides of the border.”
Others paid similar tributes on social media.
Kathleen Moore said: “He was such a lovely, lovely man. A real gentleman in every sense of the word. May he rest in peace.”
Gerry Temple said the news was “tragic”. He too added: “He was such a lovely gentleman.”
A number of farm-related deaths have devastated families across Northern Ireland in recent weeks.
In May mother and daughter Clare and three-year-old Bethany Smyth were killed when their quad bike was involved in a collision with a tractor at Ballycastle. Another daughter, five-year-old Hannah was seriously injured.
Also last month 46-year-old father-of-four Andrew Abraham was killed in an accident on his farm near Antrim. Last weekend Shane Lappin, aged 30, died after an accident with a teleporter near Keady. Mr Lappin, who worked for an agricultural feeds company was working on a house he was building for his new bride Sarah, the couple having only married in August.
• Funeral details for Mr Crockett have not yet been released.
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