Sunday 22 April 2018

Family pay tribute to Irish teacher who died in China who died after fall in 'unknown circumstances'

Craig Church
Craig Church

Cate McCurry

The sister of a Northern Irish teacher who died in China has spoken of how her "family's world has collapsed" following his death.

Craig Church (27), from Portswart, Derry, died on Tuesday after he fell in a tragic accident.

His heartbroken family said the details surrounding his death remain unknown.

Craig, who would have celebrated his 28th birthday next week, taught English to primary school children in the city of Rui'an on the eastern coast of China, where he lived for over two years.

His sister Carrie (30), learned of his death through a messaging app.

She also spoke of how it's the second tragedy to hit her family in less than a year after their cousin, Alyson Cochrane (32), died in her sleep last December.

"I'd do anything to have him back," she said.

"We know very little of what happened, only that it was a tragic accident where he has fallen but nothing has been confirmed. We are getting very little information from China.

"We are working with the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, who are amazing and are liaising with the Chinese authorities and are helping as much as they can."

Craig, an Ulster University graduate and talented poet, was described as a "natural teacher".

"He was born to teach kids," Carrie added.

"He loved it and the kids absolutely adored him.

"Moving to China was something he decided he wanted to do - he had such a flair for languages."

Craig obtained a degree in English literature and a Masters in Irish poetry.

"After that he seemed to have a flair for everything and needed to spread his wings a bit, so he went off to China," she added.

"He wanted to pass on his love for the English language and he could speak a little bit of Irish.

"He was hugely loved by everyone. He was the sunshine of our lives, especially for me and my parents, Ian and Rhonda. We adored him and he would light up any room.

"Everyone commented on how kind he was and how he had time for everybody, no matter their background, old or young, it never mattered.

"He was able to brighten your day especially for the four of us and my stepdad as well."

Carrie revealed how she received the devastating message.

"I got a message through an app, WeChat, from Craig's boss saying there had been an accident," she said.

"I then had to tell my parents. They are so devastated, it feels like our world has collapsed.

"There's a lot of red tape and the time difference is not helping so we have to wait but we just really want him home so we can say goodbye properly.

"We have to stay strong. We have had a lot support from the whole of the north coast and every corner of the world.

"The amount of love shown for Craig and our family is overwhelming and that's helping us.

"Our cousin Alyson died last December and the three of us were extremely close.

"We were like brother and sisters. She passed away peacefully in her sleep from natural causes.

"It's obvious from looking on Facebook how loved Craig was. It's a case of getting him home now."

His death has sparked hundreds of online tributes.

One family friend posted on Facebook: "So sad to hear about Craig, he was one of those very rare people in the world that everyone loved within minutes of meeting him.

"He was an example of how we should live our lives."

Portstewart Football Club posted online: "The committee would like to offer their condolences to our past player and true friend Ian and the entire Church family on the tragic passing of Craig."

Belfast Telegraph

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