FRIENDS have paid tribute to a former Royal Navy sailor whose body was pulled out of mudflats after what appears to have been a tragic accident.
Darren Tully was found dead at Wicormarine boat yard in Cranleigh Road, Portchester on Sunday.
He lived aboard HMS Egeria, a 54-year-old ex-navy inshore survey vessel which he had been restoring.
The 42-year-old was in the Royal Navy for 22 years and served in HMS York.
He then bought HMS Egeria and planned to restore her over the next two years for use as a house boat.
Daniel Hoyland, 17, of Ferry Road in Eastney, had been helping Mr Tully with his restoration project.
He said: ‘I was devastated when I found out what had happened.
‘He was the biggest and most significant influential male I had in my life – he was like another dad.
‘He helped me with so much, gave me so much good advice and helped me to get on the path I should be on in life.
‘He was a very unique individual and he was always happy.
‘Nothing was ever a worry and he was just so laid-back. All he ever wanted to do was help people.
‘He was going to use his boat to do charity work and reunite people who used to serve in her.’
Daniel hopes the project to restore HMS Egeria can be carried on in Mr Tully’s memory.
The 42-year-old was discovered with a head injury in mudflats near the boat yard at around 6.30pm on Sunday.
His friends believe he may have fallen off the ship. Former shipmates have been posting tributes on a website about HMS Egeria.
One message read: ‘Daz was a big star in the sky. All the lads who knew him very well have been calling each other in tears and disbelief, such is the shock of losing our shipmate.
‘Those of us on HMS York at a certain time were so very close and had a unique bond that has never broken to this day.
‘I will miss him and cherish the wonderful memories.’