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Bell ringer falls to death at wedding

PUBLISHED: 10:08 02 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:12 07 July 2010

A groom yesterday paid tribute to an 80-year-old bell-ringer who plunged 30ft to his death moments after a church wedding ceremony.

Brian Keane, a Conservative councillor at Forest Heath District Council, was tying the knot with bride Kelly Brown at St Mary's Church in Mildenhall when the tragedy happened.

A groom yesterday paid tribute to an 80-year-old bell-ringer who plunged 30ft to his death moments after a church wedding ceremony.

Brian Keane, a Conservative councillor at Forest Heath District Council, was tying the knot with bride Kelly Brown at St Mary's Church in Mildenhall when the tragedy happened.

It is believed that after ringing the bells for the ceremony church verger Jack Sturgeon, whom colleagues have described as a humble man, had climbed to an upper level of the church tower to wind the clock when he fell.

The wedding couple had left the church and it is understood that their guests were walking out when the incident happened.

It is also understood that Mr Sturgeon's wife Beryl was in church at the time.

Off-duty firefighters, who were part of the marital congregation, dashed to his aid but he was pronounced dead as further emergency services - including the air ambulance - arrived at the scene.

Mr Keane said: “Our thoughts are with Mr Sturgeon's family. It is a very tragic event. He did a lot for the church and was a lovely guy.”

Mr Sturgeon's brother Peter last night paid tribute to him on behalf of the family. He said that Jack Sturgeon leaves his wife Beryl and two daughters Valerie and Ann. He was an active member of St

Mary's Church as a verger and had held the position for more than 40 years.

“With his natural talents he maintained the electrical and heating, systems as well as the maintenance of the bell mechanisms,” Mr Sturgeon said. “He was also an active bell ringer.

“He took care of the church clock, which had to be regularly wound by hand. He was supported in his duties as verger by his wife Beryl. He spent endless hours attending these duties as well as preparations for the normal services and special occasions. It was after the occasion of a wedding and completion of the

bell ringing that he sadly passed away.”

It is thought Mr Sturgeon suffered a heart attack but it remains unclear whether this caused him to fall

off the ladder or whether it

had happened after.

The Rev Stefanie Hodges, team vicar in Mildenhall, said: “This is such a shock and we are all absolutely devastated by this tragedy. They had rung the bells and it was the end of the service. He was winding the clock when it happened.”

She added: “Jack was a very humble man who would do anything for anyone and he will be sadly missed. All our thoughts and prayers are with his widow, Beryl, at this very sad time.”

Fire crews from Mildenhall, Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds were called to the church, along with road and air paramedics, at about 2.15pm on Saturday.

A Suffolk Police spokesman said there were no suspicious circumstances, the local authority had been informed and the death passed to the coroner.

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