Coronavirus victim's son recalls father's final moments as he died after contracting 'cruelest disease'

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green

The son of an 88-year-old church choir singer, who died after contracting coronavirus, has told of his heartbreak that he could not be with his father in his "direst hour" due to strict rules surrounding the respiratory disease.

Darrell Blakeley, who contracted coronavirus at a restaurant after coming into contact with a skier returning from northern Italy, died from Covid-19 on Friday at North Manchester General Hospital.

Speaking to ITV News, Darrell Blakeley's son Jonathan said his mask was "full of tears" as his father died in isolation.

He also told of the horror of enduring watching his father being wrapped in plastic and placed in an airtight coffin and immediately taken away upon his death.

Jonathan described coronavirus as "the cruelest disease" that he could "ever imagine" and told ITV News of his anguish of not being able to be there for his father due to strict isolation rules.

He said: "My father had looked after me all my life, he's always been there for me, in his direst hour I couldn't be there for him.

"The hospital were fantastic but I wasn't allowed to visit him."

The pensioner was admitted to hospital on March 3 with sepsis, but was placed in quarantine having earlier had contact in a restaurant with "a skier who had returned from Italy," a statement from his local church said.

It added that Darrell initially tested negative for the virus, but a week later received a positive result, shortly before becoming "extremely poorly and died".

His son Jonathan added: "Not for the physical effects that are bad enough but for the mental anguish that goes with it."

Jonathan told ITV News of how he couldn’t touch his father despite wearing a face mask, saying "it's just so difficult, because at the same time I had to remember not to touch my face, not to touch any part of my body, I held his hand and stroked his hair."

"I could only be with him for 15 minutes because after that time my mask was just full of tears and completely steamed up it was so upsetting.

"He didn't really know what was going on at that stage.

"The final time I saw him was Friday probably four hours before his death and I was so shocked because he just couldn't breathe properly."

The 88-year-old church choir singer died after contracting coronavirus. Credit: Family handout

Jonathan added: "His lungs were filling with fluid and rattling, and again I'd gowned up, the nurse accompanied me into the room in a very dignified way letting me speak my last moments to my father."

He retold one of his last conversations with his father saying: "I said what a lovely March day it is, with a lovely blue sky, and he said: 'I hope to be out in three days to see that, and I just hope to see that'."

"And I said yeah, we'll just have to see about that.

"I had to think in a split second do I tell him why, do I tell him the truth, and I chose to tell a white lie."

He told ITV News the hospital said that when his father passed away his body was sealed into a container which is completely air tight.

He added: "He is then removed from the hospital room.

"The hospital clear the corridors and he is taken to the morgue with a team with protective equipment.

"I'll never see my father again, because he is forever sealed in that air tight container."

When asked what would Jonathan would say to people in terms of changing behaviour to prevent families going through what you have, he said: "Pull together.

"Pull together as a community.

"Be sensible.

"Don't go into crowded places.

"Live differently.

"It might mean that you can't see you favourite football team or go to the cinema."

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