Sunday 20 October 2019

'He got such joy from his flying and soaring in the clouds' - tributes paid at funeral of man (61) who died in plane crash

Pilot Peter Tawse who lost his life in the crash
Pilot Peter Tawse who lost his life in the crash

Sarah Slater

A small country church was where hundreds of mourners gathered to say their last goodbyes to a man who was a “hero” to all his family.

Peter Tawse (61), originally from the UK but who lived in Raheen, Newbawn, Co Wexford, along with flying partner Dr John Finnan (52), died when their light aircraft came down near Duncormick 15 minutes after they took flight on Sunday evening last.

Mourners began to gather shortly at 11am at St Abban’s Church on the outskirts of the Wexford village of Adamstown, an hour prior to the midday funeral service to sympathise with his wife Kay, Mr Tawse’s mother Margaret, younger brother John and sisters Lucy and Emi. His sister Liz was unable to attend as she is in Australia.

The service was concelebrated by Frs Jimmy Moynihan, Robert Nolan and Jim Furlong. The parents of Dr Finnan’s John and Claire along with two of his sisters were also present at the service. Dr Finnan was laid to rest last Wednesday in Athy, Co Kildare.

Peter Tawse (61), from Old Ross, Co Wexford (pictured left) and John Finnan (52), from Athy, Co Kildare, died when the light aircraft they were in crashed at Gibletstown near Duncormick in Co Wexford
Peter Tawse (61), from Old Ross, Co Wexford (pictured left) and John Finnan (52), from Athy, Co Kildare, died when the light aircraft they were in crashed at Gibletstown near Duncormick in Co Wexford

Mr Tawse was a highly respected flying instructor and former manager of Waterford Regional Airport.

As Mr Tawse’s remains were brought into the church in a wicker basket adorned by colourful yet simple wildflowers, those gathered heard from Fr Moynihan that, “An unexpected or sudden death has an air off unreality which can’t be taken in by many people. It’s like a bad dream and you hope you wake up with (reality being different).

“(It is difficult on family and friends) as they were not given the chance to say goodbye. But Jesus tells us that we will see each other again and that death and parting is not everlasting.

“We pray for Peter’s late parents Francis and May and Kay’s later father Andrew. May his gentle soul rest in peace.”

Several of Mr Tawse’s nieces and nephews read poems written by his wife Kay, while his sister Lucy and brother John emotionally addressed those who wished to pay their respects.

Through tears, Lucy told sympathisers, “My beloved big brother will always be in the clouds. I can hardly look at the sky or hear a plane that I don’t think of him. He got such joy from his flying and soaring in the clouds. Love you lots Pedro.”

The congregation was also told a tale of how beautiful the world of the southeast, Wexford and it’s coastline in particular are, look from the sky by a young enthusiast he brought up in his falcon airplane.

However, it was Mr Tawse’s younger brother John who helped to make mourners laugh as recalled memories of him when they were growing up.

“As his younger brother by two years, he was my hero, a magician and a boffin. He had an unflappable approach to everything. To a younger brother he could mend anything and deal with adults. He was always able to patch me up.

“Peter had abilities way beyond his years. We was unafraid of his unknown, he was always adventurous and always seemed to know what to do. He had a strong desire as a very young child to fly. It was a dream which was deeply rooted in him and he followed his dream.

“He drove our Mum mad with the glue he would get on his trousers every time he put model airplanes together. Every penny he earned went into flying as he wanted to get proper lessons. He qualified in the early 1980s and he was in his element.

“He loved spending time with wonderful people who spoke his language and having an office that was different everyday (as it was in the sky). Peter felt a sense of belonging and friendship with people who wanted to learn to fly. His passion helped him find his calling in life.

“Unlike Peter he got a proper job in managing Waterford Airport but he and all of his family were proud of what he achieved, his vision, how he drove this project but he was never happier than when he was in his own office in the sky.”

John revealed that the last 20 years of his life were the best because of meeting his wife Kay. “The love, care, support and devotion from Kay to him helped him discover a general richness in his life.

“Looking from the sidelines he found completeness and happiness with Kay which was lovely to see. Kay’s whole family, the Furlongs were welcoming to him and he was included in their lives. It is impossible to put into words how devastated and inconsolable Kay is.

“He always told me to follow my dreams and not to listen to the nay sayers and I will follow my dreams for him.”

Mourners were told by Fr Nolan that Kay wished to thank all those who sent letters, called to their home, posted messages on social media and made phone calls. The first responders and emergency services who went to the scene of Sunday’s airplane crash were thanked for their compassion and kindness shown to both men and their relatives. The air of Gabriel’s Oboe was played by a young flautist as Mr Tawse’s service drew to a close. He was buried shortly afterwards in the adjoining ceremony.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) are examining the circumstances of the deaths. In interim report is due in the next several weeks.

The aircraft was a vintage two-seater plane with one engine that was primarily used for leisure flying.

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