Captain David Seath's brother reflects the year since his London Marathon death
For Gary Seath Sunday April 24 started the same as any other.
At his home in Cowdenbeath the phone rang. His mum, Libby answered it.
The moments that followed would come to define a family, shaken by the sudden loss of their son and brother, David Seath, at just 31 years old.
Commando captain David had set off from girlfriend Gaby Schonenberger’s Stockbridge home for London the day before to run the city’s world famous marathon.
He was super fit and his training runs around Inverleith Park and the streets of the city had ramped up in the weeks before the run.
He admitted feeling relaxed about the challenge.
A natural runner, he had planned to take it easy, aiming to raise money for his chosen veterans charity, Help For Heroes, rather than try and beat the clock.
“When the phone rang that afternoon we did not expect to hear the news that we did,” Gary recounted.
“My mother had relayed the shocking news that David had collapsed in London and that his heart had stopped.”
David had collapsed after experiencing a cardiac arrest on Upper Thames Street, just over three miles from the finish line and, despite an immediate medical response, he died soon after arriving at hospital.
A year on from his death, Gary admits reliving the moments of that day is “almost impossible”.
“I tried to remain confident that the medical staff would perform miracles to save David’s life, but at the same time I couldn’t believe what was happening – David was an officer in 29 Commando Regiment, in peak physical condition.”
After graduating with two Masters degrees from Aberdeen University, David, who had dabbled with military service during his time in Aberdeen, joining the Royal Marine Reserves, decided to sign up for a career in the services.
He was determined, as with his attitude to everything in life, to succeed, and in 2010 he passed out from the Military Academy at Sandhurst as a commissioned officer.
Fiona Chalmers, who served with David and will be running the Stirling Marathon in his memory, said: “We lived in the mess together and became good friends very quickly. He was fun to be around and cared about his friends.
“The thing about Dave is he was very special to a lot of people. Doing these things helps us all keep his memory alive.”
At his funeral, Gary, who is deeply proud of his brother’s military achievements, reflected on an early memory of a childhood commando raid they planned and executed together. The scene was their back garden and David had disclosed a covert plan to make it across the neighbours’ garden to steal tadpoles.
“We waited for dusk, covered our faces in dirt from our mum’s flower beds, and successfully made it across the wire fences and made our slow and purposeful crawl on our fronts to the pond.”
The sweet memory raised a knowing laugh at the funeral – everyone who knew David couldn’t help but be charmed by his cheekiness.
The horrifying moment the family were told the news of his death will forever be etched in Gary’s memory.
He said: “When we were told David had died it felt like I couldn’t breathe, talk or indeed move.
“A wave of shock, emotion and hysteria took over and there’s no safe harbour of respite during a time like that.
“I remember thinking that this kind of tragedy is something that always happens to someone else not us.”
On autopilot, Gary, his mum Libby and dad Pete made the traumatic flight to London.
They joined Gaby at St Thomas’ Hospital and David’s friends, scrambled from afar, attempting to shoulder some of the grief of the moment.
Unavoidable, considering the circumstances of David’s death, was the media response it raised. And something which has since become a blessing, was at the time excruciating as pictures of David were blazoned across newspapers and TV screens.
Gary recalls the pain it caused at the time: “It made the journey to the station so difficult. But at that point on the train I read so many incredible messages of support – it was so overwhelming and I can’t thank everyone enough for their support.”
The days which followed were nothing short of horrific.
Family and friends came together trying to grasp what had happened, to gather their thoughts and try to come to terms with an unimaginable reality.
“Everyone was in a deep state of shock,” Gary explained. “But I must thank everyone who visited us, sent flowers or cards. I think we were all in floods of tears reading the heartfelt messages of support. It meant so much to our family to feel supported.”
David received a full military funeral in St Margaret’s RC Memorial Church in Dunfermline. Guests turned out in bright colours, a nod to David’s vibrant personality.
“It was a fitting tribute to his distinguished service in Afghanistan and the Middle East,” Gary said. “I remember walking with David’s battery from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery so vividly.
“If I am being honest, I felt at peace for the first time since David’s tragic passing during that 20 minute walk and it was then I decided to utilise what I had learned in the charity sector to ensure the incredible amounts of money being donated were put to use right away through the Captain David Seath Memorial Fund”.
The fund has provided more than 170 financial grants to wounded, injured and sick personnel through Help for Heroes. It has assisted beneficiaries who have physical and psychological trauma as a result of service, rebuild their lives. Gary approached Help for Heroes shortly after David died with his idea of creating a fund. He also found the strength of spirit to organise an event to finish the last 3.2 miles of the marathon which David never managed.
And the day before travelling to London the charity supported its first beneficiary.
The family also met a number of emergency service staff who had attempted to save David’s life. Gary was taken to the spot where David collapsed.
He said: “I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotion that hit me when he pointed at the specific point on the road but I am glad I finished the 3.2 miles for my brother.”
Over the past year the charity has raised more than £270,000.
A memorial run will take place tomorrow in Dunfermline coinciding with the London Marathon, where a number of David’s friends will be running.To find out more visit captainseathmemorialfund.wordpress.com.