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Tributes to Paignton retired engineer, 83, who died after fall from ship

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 09, 2013

Joan and Dennis Brain

Joan and Dennis Brain

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A FAMILY has paid tribute to a Paignton man who died when he fell from the deck of a catamaran while on holiday in the Caribbean.

Dennis Brain and his wife, Joan, from Broadsands, were on a five-week cruise when the tragedy happened on a day trip in Antigua.

The fit and active 83-year-old retired nuclear design engineer slipped through a handrail.

A crew member aboard the 80ft luxury vessel dived into the sea and managed to bring him back on board, but despite attempts at resuscitation, he never regained consciousness.

Now his wife, five children, Teresa, Davina, Neil, Patrick and Lisa, six grandchildren and great-grandchild are awaiting permission for his body to be allowed back home so they can hold a funeral in Paignton.

Daughter Teresa Leavitt said: "Dad had a zest for life, without being an extrovert. In a way, although what happened to dad is very sad, it's also very fitting because right up to the end he lived life to the full.

"There was nothing he liked better than getting all the family together for Christmas or family celebrations. He was the life and soul when he was with his family, but outsiders thought he was shy."

The couple, who had been dancing since they were teenagers, were members of the John Westlake weekly tea dances at the Anchorage Hotel, Torquay, and the Memorial Hall.

Son-in-law Stuart Leavitt said: "Both Dennis and Joan had a very young outlook. They were tobogganing in Madeira a few days before Dennis died. On his 80th birthday Dennis was given his first computer and he quickly became an expert and did everything on the internet."

The couple were due to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this year, and had been happily making plans for more Caribbean holidays minutes before the tragic accident.

Joan retold how, on the 10th day of their five-week holiday, they had been enjoying the day trip aboard the Excellence.

Joan remembered how Dennis was walking around on the deck admiring the view when he fell just yards away from her.

She said: "There was one young crew member who swam out to Dennis. People were telling me he would be OK because his head was still above water and they were asking me if he could swim and I said he was a good swimmer.

"When this young man got out there to him he pulled him back to the boat, dragged him up the steps and tried to resuscitate him. I kept thinking he was going to came round.

"Dennis was very fit and sprightly. He could out-walk me and he loved his dancing. We went ballroom dancing twice a week at home and every night on the ship.

"I still cannot believe it at the moment. We had just been talking over lunch about how beautiful it was in Antigua, and planning to come back in the future."

Originally from Leicestershire, the couple retired to Torbay 18 years ago. Joan said: "He loved it here so much."

Joan flew home from Barbados two days after the accident, which happened on Saturday, January 12.

The couple's two sons flew out to deal with the High Commission and Foreign Office.

The family plan to hold a funeral at the couple's church, Sacred Heart in Cecil Road, Paignton.

Joan said: "I am extremely grateful for all the kindness I got from everybody aboard the P&O cruise liner Oceana.

"They arranged lots of ship to shore phone calls whenever I needed to talk to my family."

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