'My best friend, my wingman, my soulmate' - widow of man who died after Camino de Santiago walk pays tribute
THE heartbroken widow of a diving coach who died abroad after taking part in the famous Camino de Santiago walk has said he was her "best friend", her "wingman" and her "soulmate".
Phillip Dunlop (53), from Bangor in Co Down, who worked as a leisure attendant at the Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex in the seaside town, died in Spain on his way to the airport to catch a flight home to his family.
His wife, Joan, flew to Santiago yesterday to be with her husband prior to his repatriation.
She said there were "no words" to describe her grief, adding that she would love him "always and forever".
Mr Dunlop, a father of three children - Travis, Taylor and Jordan - had walked 252km in nine days from Porto in Portugal to Santiago alongside his colleague, Kevin, before his death on Saturday.
Thanking everyone for their support on Facebook, Mrs Dunlop said she was flying to Spain with "the kids and two of my sisters" to be with Phillip "for a few days as it will be 10 days before he comes home".
"I want to personally thank everyone for all your generosity, support and condolences. We are so touched by how much people loved Phill Dunlop," she wrote.
And in a previous post shortly after she learned the dreadful news of his passing, she paid a moving tribute to the man she worked alongside and with whom she shared her life.
"I have no words," said Mrs Dunlop, Aurora head diving coach. "I am totally devastated and shocked as Phill Dunlop my amazing husband, best friend, my wingman, soulmate, mine and the kids' whole life has passed away."
She said she would love him "always and forever."
A GoFundMe appeal set up to help get the Dunlop family out to Spain raised more than £9,000 (€10,400) in just one day.
On the home page, Phillip is described as having "lived his whole life to the full" and who "loved his family, adored his wife, Joan, and his children".
"He loved having a laugh, was passionate about his diving club, a flutter on the horse racing and a night out with the boys, but liked his wee quite nights in with his family," it said.
"Phillip and Kevin walked the most incredible journey, Porto (in Portugal) to Santiago (in Spain) a total of 252km in just nine days. What an achievement.
"Sadly, this is where Phillip's journey came to an end - when he was on his way back home he fell ill and unfortunately passed away." The post added: "The family and the whole community are shocked and devastated by the tragic news."
It appealed "for donations to send the family out to Santiago (Spain) where they can spend the time they need with Phillip, to grieve and help with funeral costs".
A touching tribute added: "Phillip was loved by all that knew him, he had such a positive impact on so many lives including all the children who attended his diving club."
One message to Joan said: "Thoughts are with you and your beautiful kids at this very sad time.
"Phillip was one in a million and it's clear to see by all the Facebook messages just how loved he was, but also how loved you and your wee family are. Stay strong my friend we are all here for you."
Another read: "Phil is a lovely man, a great teacher and I'm devastated for Joan and his children".