Tributes to popular hot air balloon pilot who took his own life — (GetReading)

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Jan 03, 2013 00:00

By Becky Barnes

Friends paid tribute to a popular hot air balloon pilot who committed suicide.    Colleagues of Neal Parry spoke of their ‘shock’ following his inquest at Windsor Guildhall on Thursday, December 20.

Father-of-two Neal, 55, of Lawrence Grove, Binfield, was found hanged at home on Thursday, July 26, last year, after he emailed friends and family saying he intended to take his life, the inquest heard.

Speaking after the inquest a Virgin Balloon Flights spokesman said: “Neal worked with us for three years and was a fine balloon pilot who was truly passionate about ballooning.

“He was a very warm and friendly person who was popular with passengers, colleagues and within the wider ballooning community.

“His tragic passing came as a massive shock and he is greatly missed.”   Coroner Peter Bedford read an email from July 18, where Neal said the ‘failure’ of his social life was overwhelming him and added he had lost the will to live.

But an hour later, he wrote another email saying he tried to kill himself but changed his mind, the inquest heard.   Mr Bedford read the email which said he wanted to rebuild his life.

However an email written eight days later, shortly before Neal’s body was found on July 26, said: “I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of rebuilding my work and social life from scratch – it is nobody’s fault but my own.”

In a written statement from Neal’s brother Guy Parry, read by Mr Bedford, the inquest heard Neal regularly said he was lucky to do the job he loved but unhappy on the effect it had on his social life.

Neal had been on anti-depressants since a six-year relationship broke up a year before and was going ‘downhill’ but was reluctant to seek professional help because of the impact on his pilot licence.   After the first suicide attempt on July 18, Guy took his brother to see GP Dr Debby Walker, at Green Meadows Surgery, Ascot.   Guy’s statement said Neal was said to be improving and moving away from suicide but he was found dead by his son-in-law Craig Patrick on July 26.

Recording a verdict of suicide Mr Bedford said: “He had reached a point where he could no longer go on and formulated a plan.   “He looked at alternatives to try to build his life but his intentions and motives he originally expressed were unchanged and realistically he was not going to overcome those with the help available.

“He stepped back from the brink but then reached a conclusion there was nothing left for him to live for – he intended to end his life.   “We must respect Mr Parry’s intentions and wishes and he acted how he thought appropriate.

“He took his own life but I think it important to add while suffering from depression.”   Balloon pilots and friends plan to hold a small balloon meet to honour Neal’s memory later this year .