7.50pm on the 14th June 2009, our lives changed forever.
It started as a normal Sunday. Craig, (known as “Kingy”) had rung in the morning to speak with Natalie, his 4 year old niece, which was a normal occurrence as Craig always made sure he spoke or saw her every day. He arranged that he would come over in the evening to see her as he needed to do some bailing for his dad (my father-in-law) and then had a BBQ in the afternoon. It was summer and my in-laws have a farm and contracting business, so even though Craig was not at his day job at JCB, he was working for his dad.
The day passed in a normal haze, nothing out of the ordinary. Then we received a call at 7.00pm to say that no-one had heard from Craig and that he had rung his fiancé, Gemma, earlier on to state he was finishing the bailing and making his way on the tractor to the BBQ.
Then a matter of minutes later we received the call to say that Craig had been found passed out on the tractor. His best friend, Rich, who had organised the BBQ had gone looking for him and had found him. The next half an hour passed in a blur of phone calls, as people from the BBQ were ringing Paul (my husband and Craig’s brother); or his other two brothers, Ross and Wayne, were calling as no-one really knew what was happening.
Then I received a call from Ross, to state that the Air Ambulance was landing and they were trying to resuscitate him. This was the first we knew how serious the situation was. Wayne, his wife Vicky, and Will, a very close family friend, had made their way to our house when we received the phone call at 7.50pm to say that Craig had passed away. Nothing can ever prepare you for this kind of situation. Craig was fit, healthy, 27 years old and planning his wedding. This was so unreal.
We made our way to the field where Craig was. Joyce and John – my in-laws – Rich, and a few other friends that had been at the BBQ were already there when we arrived. Craig was lying on the floor and we were not allowed near him as the police were there to check that there were no problems with the machinery that Craig had been using which may have caused his death. We stayed in that field until Craig was taken at midnight. It was so cold, but nothing mattered except that we needed to be near him, for the last time as a family.
Sarah, Ross’ wife, went into labour the following morning and was taken to the hospital. Even in my worst nightmares, I did not think that one minute I would be consoling Craig’s fiancé and dealing with reporters for the local papers, and the next speaking with Ross as he was trying to comfort Sarah in labour as well as Sarah comforting him over Craig. I could possibly say this was the worst day of my life. Watching my strong, normally composed father-in-law cry uncontrollably and there was nothing I could do, is something that will stay with me forever. Friends turned up constantly to pay their respects, family came but no-one knew what to say. William Craig Salmon was born later that day.
We are a very close family, the 4 brothers have always been close, I have known then all since the age of 9, so Craig was not only my brother-in-law, he was my friend.
We had no idea how we were to explain this to Natalie. Craig and her had the most wonderful relationship. Whilst I was pregnant, he had my scan picture as his screen saver on his phone and he was the first person to see both of my children after they were born.
He adored them both, but Chloe was only 1, and Natalie was the one he would come and collect in his JCB and take her off for the day.
His funeral was a very large affair. Craig was very popular. There were over 500 people there, the church yard was a mass of faces, no space was left and people were standing on the roads. It was a marvellous tribute to the fantastic person he was.
To discover that Craig had died from SADS, to know there was no reason why, has been horrendous. Nothing to blame, no reason why we have a Craig sized whole in our lives. Up until that point we had never heard of SADS. Now, we know 12 people a week die from conditions like this.
Now, nearly 4 years on, we have raised enough money through CRY to enable a 2 day screening event in our local village where we can screen nearly 200 people.
Family and friends have contributed to various charity activities we have done, from darts and football matches, to fashion shows.
And us as a family? Well, we are getting there. Nothing can ever replace the hole we have in our lives, it does not get easier, we just learn to live with it. Gemma is moving on, she has a new boyfriend and she is happy. We all have our “Kingy” days where we are down and we help each other through. Every meal or party we have or attend, makes us realise that he is not here. There is always an empty seat that is a constant reminder. Because he worked away a lot with his job, it is easy to pretend he is away and that he’ll be home soon. But deep down, we have the heavy heart realisation that he’s not.
If, with our screening day, we can stop this happening to another family, all the fundraising will be worth it and Craig will not have died in vain.