THE family of Lieutenant Sara Hellawell have spoken of their shock and devastation after she was found dead aboard a warship.
Lt Hellawell was discovered in her cabin by colleagues on HMS Edinburgh while the Portsmouth-based ship was docked in Angola.
An investigation has been launched into the circumstances of her death, which is not being treated as suspicious.
In a statement, her partner Lee Gordon said: ‘During our time together we shared many things including our home and work lives. I loved Sara deeply, and she will be missed greatly. I was honoured to have the opportunity to have served alongside her, and felt privileged that she chose me to share her life with, at our home.
‘I wish to extend my condolences to family, friends and colleagues of Sara, including the ship’s company of HMS Edinburgh, with whom she served with loyalty, determination, and passion for her work, whilst discharging her duties on-board as the deputy marine engineering officer, a position and challenge she relished. Sara’s loss has left a void in my life so deep, at a time we were planning for the future together, that it hurts.
‘I am comforted by the voices of support and condolence from all those that knew her. For that I thank you. Sara my love, my life, peace be with you.’
Lt Hellawell’s family paid tribute to her: ‘As a family we are devastated by this tragic news – Sara was a truly loved, daughter, sister, niece, cousin and partner. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her. Sara had always wanted a career in the Royal Navy. This driving passion was started by joining the Sea Cadets, swiftly followed by the CCF and a coveted naval bursary at university. A very determined person who was always caring for others, she excelled at everything she did, and enjoyed life to the full. In her spare time her interests were many including skiing, cooking, sailing and supporting Manchester United. She always found time for her friends. She looked forward to the opportunities her career gave her and thrived on the challenges it presented.’
Lt Hellawell, who lived in Landguard Road, Eastney, was responsible for making sure Edinburgh’s systems worked smoothly.
She had also played a leading role in its £17.5m refit last year.
The ship’s commanding officer, Commander Paul Russell, said: ‘Sara was a young marine engineer with tremendous potential. She played a leading role in getting HMS Edinburgh from refit to an operational theatre in good order and overcame every challenge that faced her with drive, determination and good humour. Her consummate technical ability drew respect from her department and her gregarious nature and enthusiasm for naval life made her hugely popular throughout the ship. Sara was an outstanding officer, shipmate and friend.’
Marine engineer officer Lt Cdr Phil Boakes said: ‘Sara was an utterly committed and professionally competent marine engineer who always wanted the best for the ship. She was always willing to go the extra mile. She had a bright future and as my deputy I trusted her implicitly – I could rely on her totally. She was respected by all who worked with her and will be sorely missed in the department, as well as throughout the ship.’
Sailors serving on the destroyer are said to be ‘distraught’ at the loss of the well-loved 26-year-old and are being offered counselling.
A navy spokesman said: ‘There will be an investigation and the thoughts and sympathies of the Royal Navy are with her family.’