FAMILY, friends and colleagues gathered to remember a hero's life tragically cut short.
All at a memorial service at St John's Church, Upperthong, yesterday were united in their grief at the death of flight commander Lt David Cole last December 7. He died when his Royal Navy helicopter crashed off the Cornish coast.
After the service a lone Lynx helicopter, identical to the one which Lt Cole used to fly in, performed a fly-by, swooping low past the church to pay the Royal Navy's last respects.
Lt Cole's helicopter disappeared while he and his crew were answering an SOS call, which turned out to be false. The bodies of its four-man crew were recovered from rough seas later.
More than 100 people packed into the church yesterday to remember the 34-year-old, whose crew had previously saved the lives of countless people stranded in remote areas of Scotland, the Lake District and Northern Ireland.
There were readings from Royal Navy colleagues and school and university friends. The Rev Geoff Banks took the service.
He read out a statement from Lt Cole's father, Mike.
Talking of his son's funeral on December 22 Mr Cole said: "It was a deeply moving and very sad occasion. He was totally determined to his life in the Navy.
"But his life was much more than that and we felt we wanted to celebrate that today in his native Yorkshire."
Lt Cole went to school in Upper Hopton, Mirfield, before his family moved to the West Midlands.
In 1986 they moved to Upperthong and Lt Cole went to Shelley High School.
Schoolfriend James McCrea told those paying their respects that Lt Cole was a fun-loving and adventurous teenager.
"As soon as you spoke to David it became apparent he was a sharp individual, but he did not belittle people. He was able to talk to people from all walks of life," he said.
"His passion for doing the right thing is something that will stay with me for ever."
After working for Jansens motor dealers in Huddersfield, Lt Cole went to Hull University, graduating in 1995.
In January, 1996, he entered Dartmouth Naval College. He then trained as an observer in the Fleet Air Arm.
In 1999 he joined HMS Gannet Search and Rescue Unit in Prestwick, Scotland. It was there he met his wife, Anna, 22. They married last August.
Lt Cole's funeral, with full military honours, was held in Yeovilton, Somerset.