The father of two brothers killed in a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon has said he will remember the last hug he gave them for the rest of his life.
The Rev David Hill made the comments ahead of a memorial service in Worthing last night which took place in honour of his sons, 30-year-old car salesman Stuart and 32-year-old lawyer Jason, and Stuart’s girlfriend Becky Dobson, 27.
Prayers were also said for survivors Ellie Milward, 29, Jonathan Udall, 32, and Jennifer Barham, 39, who are being treated in hospital in America for critical injuries, as well as pilot Scott Booth, 42, who was also injured.
Speaking to reporters outside St Matthew’s Church, Mr Hill said everything was ‘incredibly raw’ and he would ‘cry his eyes out’ at the service.
He said he was thinking of all ‘six wonderful people’ involved in the tragedy and had hoped veterinary receptionist Ms Dobson would one day have become his daughter-in-law.
Mr Hill, a member of the church’s preaching team, added: ‘If I say one thing to the people listening: When you next see your children or anyone who matters the most to you, give them a hug.
‘It may sound very trivial but the very last thing that I gave my children was a hug.
‘That hug I will remember for the rest of my life.’
Attending alongside his wife Sandra and the family of Ms Dobson, he said the service showed the church and Worthing ‘at its best’ because of how the community comes together at times of need, adding: ‘They proved that (before) in the Shoreham disaster they could be there for people.’
More than 300 people packed into the church and there was standing room only, with a crowd of people queuing around the street corner for most of the service, hoping to give their condolences.
The Rev Sara-Jane Stevens led prayers, a period of reflection and selected pieces of music including See You Again by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth.
Seven candles were lit - three of which were purple in memory of those who died and four white symbols of hope for the survivors still in hospital.
She remembered the brothers as ‘loving’ and ‘full of mischief’, adding: ‘(The family) are broken. Part of their very soul has been taken in the death of their children. I don’t know how they get through this but I will be there for them.’
Friend of the Hill family Andrew Fadoju, a minister at the town’s Elim church, said: ‘When I heard about the crash I was shocked and filled with overwhelming sadness for the families.
‘They were the kind of children any parent would be proud of. It is such a shame they have been taken in the prime of life.’
The three victims, who were all originally from Worthing, had been celebrating Stuart Hill’s birthday with a trip to Las Vegas and a sightseeing tour around the Arizona landmark.
The Airbus EC130 B4 crashed just before sunset on Saturday. The cause of the crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, with preliminary findings expected before the end of the month.
More than £14,000 has been raised for Mr Udall and Ms Milward, who were on their honeymoon at the time, according to a JustGiving crowdfunding web page.