The heartbroken family of a Blackpool man killed when a plane was shot out of the sky today paid tribute to a devoted uncle who “loved life”.
Glenn Thomas, 49, was an avid traveller excited about going to Australia for the first time when his Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight to Kuala Lumpar crashed over war-torn Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.
Speaking from a hotel in Spain, where she was waiting to travel to the airport before flying home from holiday last night, Glenn’s twin sister Tracey Withers told The Gazette: “There was no uncle or brother like him in the world.
“I can’t believe it – he was the most generous, kind person who always thought about others first.”
She was on holiday with husband Mark, 50, and daughter Brittany, 17, when they heard the flight from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport had crashed on Thursday.
Glenn, a former journalist and spokesman for the World Health Organisation in Geneva, was on his way to a medical conference in Australia when his flight came down close to the Russian border.
Tracey, of South Shore,said: “He had never been to Australia before and he was so excited.
“He loved life and was doing what he does best – travelling. Last year he was away every weekend.
“He just idolised my two children.
“He wanted them to do so well.
“Everyone that knew him knew what he was like – there’s not a bad word to say about him.”
After learning of the tragedy, Tracey and her family faced an agonising wait before it was confirmed her brother had boarded the plane – made worse by the fact her son, Jordan, 22, was at the family home in Blackpool.
“The last 48 hours have been horrendous,” she said. “I just wanted to get back.”
Jordan, who spent seven months in Geneva living with his uncle after leaving university, said: “There was a couple of hours when we got our hopes up thinking he might have missed the plane.
“He had missed so many before – he was so laid back that he was always cutting it fine.”
He said the news had hit the family hard, just 13 weeks after the death of Glenn and Tracey’s father. “He was an amazing man,” he added. “He treated me as a son and I looked up to him. A week before my 21st birthday he said ‘pick seven friends, we’re going to Lisbon all expenses paid’ – he was that type of person.
“Through all his life the one thing he said to me was go to university and go travelling.
“The one place he hadn’t been was Australia and obviously that’s where has going for a conference.”
The family had been planning a major celebration in September, with three birthdays and Tracey’s wedding anniversary coming up.
Jordan said: “It’s coming up to mum and Glenn’s 50th, Brittany is turning 18 and it’s mum’s wedding anniversary too. We were going to have a massive big do but it’s not going to be the same now.”
Glenn, who grew up in South Shore and went to Highfield High School, joined the civil service after dropping out of Blackpool Sixth Form.
He went to night school where he got his A-Levels before studying economics at Bangor University.
From there he got his first job in journalism at The Citizen in St Annes.
He went on to work for Granada and the BBC, as well as writing for national newspapers, later moving to Geneva, Switzerland, to work for the World Health Organisation.
Tracey added: “He was such an amazing person who did so much.”
For more tributes to Glenn see today’s Gazette.