Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tributes to 'Exuberant' Couple Who Lost Lives in St Jude Storm Explosion

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tributes to 'Exuberant' Couple Who Lost Lives in St Jude Storm Explosion

Article excerpt

Byline: Benedict Moore-Bridger

THE family of an IT contractor killed with his girlfriend when a fallen tree caused a gas explosion that destroyed their home during the St Jude storm told of their devastation today.

Suhail Akhtar, 46, and his long-term girlfriend Dorota Kolasinska, 34, were found in the wreckage of their house in Hounslow as the storm ravaged the south of the country.

The blast was so fierce it wiped out two houses either side and damaged two more in the street.

Mr Akhtar, who had worked for services company Atos and Ms Kolasinska, a traffic light sequencer for Hackney council, were found by sniffer dogs on the first floor of the destroyed house on Monday morning.

Speaking for the first time about their deaths, Mr Akhtar's family told the Standard: "Suhail and Dorota's loss has left an insurmountable void in our lives. Suhail's passion for living life to the max and their exuberance touched all our lives. It will be our enduring memory of them both."

The couple, who had been in a relationship for about 10 years, were extremely active and enjoyed taking part in charity events, friends said.

Earlier this year they took part in the London-to-Brighton charity cycle ride, and in 2012 raised money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research as part of the London Bikeathon event.

Devastated friends today called their deaths a "tragic and terrible loss" and said they would be "sorely missed".

Danny Johnson, who worked with Mr Akhtar, said: "Suhail was my best friend, our finest times were joking around at work, snowboarding, motorcycling, politics and sushi. He was intelligent and humorous with a great passion for life. He's left a gap that will never be filled."

Another friend, Steven Guillemet, said: "Suhail was a considerate, goodnatured man, who always put his friends before himself. …

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