Wife pays tribute to Norwich teacher

Peter WalshThe widow of a heroic Norwich teacher who drowned while saving her life after a storm capsized their boat during their honeymoon in Egypt has today spoken of her heartbreak following his tragic death.Peter Walsh

The widow of a heroic Norwich teacher who drowned while saving her life after a storm capsized their boat during their honeymoon in Egypt has today spoken of her heartbreak following his tragic death.

Luke Day, 31, who taught French at Costesssey High School, died after his sailing boat capsized on the Nile in a violent storm on Monday.

It is believed that Mr Day, who lived on Newmarket Street, near Unthank Road, Norwich, pushed his wife, Sophie and two other passengers to safety when the metre-high waves started swamping their felucca sailing boat.

Staff and pupils at the Middleton Crescent school have paid tribute to the 'brilliant' and 'inspirational' teacher, with one pupil posting a poignant video in memory of Mr Day on YouTube.

His wife Sophie survived the incident at Aswan in southern Egypt and flew back to the UK yesterdaywhere she is being comforted by her family.

She told the Evening News: 'His family and I are still in shock and do not have the words to describe how much we loved Luke and how much we are hurting.

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'Having Luke in this world made it a better place, I just wish he was still here. What has happened is incomprehensible and the future is a void. The response from our friends, families and from the kids at school is astounding. I am incredibly grateful for this support.'

A keen cyclist, Mr Day had taken six months off from teaching so he could cycle around Europe with his wife, but was due to return to his job next month following a three-week break in Egypt.

Headteacher Philip May said he was a 'brilliant' teacher and a 'lovely bloke', while hundreds of pupils have left tributes on Facebook, including one who said: 'He was the best teacher ever. I know one thing: he touched my life.'

Mr May said: 'He was a very good teacher and was getting better all the time. He was a lively and energetic teacher when he joined us and was developing all the time.

'He was very, very friendly. He was a brilliant teacher and the kids loved him. He was very hard-working, very enthusiastic, very keen. This is a big loss to the school - it's a terrible time.'

Mr Day, originally from Lymington in Hampshire and a former University of East Anglia student, taught at Costessey for four years and was head of French, acting head of languages and ran the school's French exchange programme.

A board of condolence has been set up at the school which will be collected in a book of remembrance in tribute to Mr Day, but the school was also looking at other ways of honouring his memory.

Mr May said: 'There's a lot of grief-stricken pupils and staff. There's lots of things we might do yet. His tutor group have come up with the idea of a sponsored walk and bike ride which we will hold in March or April and buy a memorial tree for the grounds of the school and give the money to a charity of his choice. We might also name one of the school blocks after him.'

The couple went out on a Nile cruise in a felucca, a traditional sailing boat, when the atrocious weather struck.

The vessel quickly became swamped with water due to the heavy rain and waves whipped up by gale-force winds on the River Nile at Aswan.

But as Mr Day tried to save himself, he became trapped and drowned as the wooden boat capsized at its mooring in the early hours of Monday.

Mrs Day, 31, a research scientist and climate change expert, spent three hours diving in the muddy water to try to reach him before his body was recovered.

Her father, David Nicholson-Cole, said: 'Luke was helping Sophie and everyone else out of the hatch as the boat started to go down.

'He was the last to try and get out and unfortunately he didn't make it. He basically sacrificed himself to save everyone else including my daughter.

'It was a completely selfless act and was entirely in character. They were a golden couple and were just so in love. She was a beautiful girl and he was handsome and caring.'

The couple married last April and began an extended honeymoon in August when they spent nearly five months cycling 2,800 miles across Europe to Istanbul.

They returned home for Christmas and then decided to complete their honeymoon by leaving for a month long sight-seeing tour of Egypt on New Year's Day.

Egyptian police said two other tourists on board the boat, one from India and the other from Canada, survived the incident.

Mr Day, a keen folk musician who played the banjo and mandolin, married at Norwich Register Office, Churchman House, Bethel Street.

But it was no ordinary wedding with the bride and groom biking from the ceremony to the reception, which was held at the York pub on York Street, on a tandem bicycle.

Simon Hickman, 31, gave the best man's speech at the couple's wedding, and who grew up with Mr Day said: 'You couldn't find a more loveable bloke -he was a genuine all round good guy who was always up to something - he had just taken six months off to have this extended honeymoon.'

Mr Hickman, who lives in London and works for English Heritage, said he last saw Mr Day when he returned from the cycling trip to Istanbul in December.

He said: 'They were expecting the trip to take until February and did it very much on a budget, had money left over and when they finished at Christmas thought they would use the money and go to Egypt.'

As well as being a keen cyclist Mr Hickman said Mr Day was also an 'accomplished' folk musician who used to play at The York and the Eaton Cottage.

To see the YouTube tribute to Mr Day log onto www.youtube.com/watch?v=zunXY9l0Mvg

To offer your own tribute to Mr Day, email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

Would you like to pay tribute to a lost loved one? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

Luke Day and his wife Sophie made the decision to tandem from Norwich to Istanbul for their honeymoon. It took them four months and more than 2,800 miles but they made it.

The couple put together a blog of their intrepid trip together with pictures which can be accessed at wwwtandemtoistanbul.blogspot.com/

Here are some of the highlights of their eastern European adventure:

Monday, September 21 2009

We have cycled to Hungary and are nearing a somewhat impressive 2500km. Our semi-regular musings reach you today from the rather grand city of Budapest where we are engaged in wandering along impressively lined streets in the sunshine, taking in the many sights.

Friday, October 16 2009

Romania is part of the EU, at times this was difficult to believe but the Romainan chapter is more memorable for the experience. The first 48 hours were filled with hilly cycling and spectacular views of the Danube passing between steep cliffs - the foothills of the Carpathians on one side and the Balkans on the other - in the Portile de Fier (Iron Gates) national park. Hot, hot, hot and cheap, cheap, cheap. That seems like a very long time ago.

Saturday, October 24

Wow: updating the map makes us look really close to Istanbul. Bulgaria so far has been a pleasure; the weather has improved, road surfaces are good and rooms are cheap enough that we haven't needed to camp in a while. All the trappings of eastern Europe are still here- litter, feral dogs, vivid domestic animal roadkill and potholes you could get lost in, but it seems somehow easier to deal with…

Wednesday, November 4

The sharp eyed amongst you will have noticed that our map marker is now suspended over the bustling megatroplis of Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, formerly Byzantium. We made it 3 months to the day after those photographs of the two pasty people leaving Norw?ch were taken. The sprawling city is rammed with people and cars. The squares, parks, towerblocks, Ottoman mansions and bazaars are punctuated every 100m or so by the towers of a grand mosque.