IN PICTURES: Funeral of tragic firefighter Stephen Hunt
HERO firefighter Stephen Hunt passed a guard of honour as he made his final journey on a traditional fire engine.
Bury town centre fell silent as the sounds of bagpipes could be heard approaching the church, followed by the fire engine decked out with floral tributes.
More than 1,000 firefighters in ceremonial uniform — representing every force in the country — lined Bolton Street and carried standards outside Bury Parish Church.
Members of other organisations also appeared in the guard of honour, including the police and ambulance service, and members of the Royal Corps of Signals, with which Mr Hunt served.
Mr Hunt, aged 38, died from the injuries he suffered while tackling a blaze in Manchester city centre in July.
He had been living in New Road, Radcliffe, and was based at Philips Park fire station in Manchester.
Mr Hunt’s coffin, draped in the Union Jack flag, was carried into the church by pallbearers wearing ceremonial uniform, following closely behind by Mr Hunt’s family, including his children, Charlotte, who carried a small red cushion with medals, and son Sam, who held a firefighter’s helmet.
Hundreds of people attended the church service, including Deputy Mayor of Bury, Cllr Joan Grimshaw, Bury Council leader, Cllr Mike Connolly, and Bury Council’s chief executive, Mike Kelly. The service was opened by the Rector of Bury, Reverend John Findon, who introduced a minute’s silence “in solidarity” with the fire crews holding their own silent tributes at stations across Greater Manchester.
Moving tributes were given by Mr Hunt’s children, Neil Helmrich, watch manager at Philips Park fire station, and Steve McGuirk, county fire officer and chief executive of Greater Manchester Fire And Rescue Service.
Charlotte, aged 18, said: “All of you here today know the name Stephen Hunt. Some of you will know a little about the man behind that name and for the rest of us, we have had the honour of him being part of our lives.”
Mr Hunt was a “proud Englishman” who had a “need to wear a uniform”, and at the age of 17, his mum gave him permission to join the Army.
He served with the Royal Signals, including a six-month tour in Bosnia, and was a “dedicated soldier”.
Charlotte said Mr Hunt had an “incredibly strong” sense of right and wrong, and treated people how he would like to be treated.
She added: “His love of life and infectious smile is something we will remember him for.”
Sam, aged 16, said he had experienced a “whirlwind of emotions” since the death of his father, who always had a “beaming grin” and was “indestructible”.
He had not realised how popular Mr Hunt had been until he died, he said, and described the support as “overwhelming”.
Sam added: “To me, he wasn’t just my dad, but my hero, my role model and my best friend.”
The service included hymns I Vow To Thee My Country and Jerusalem, there was also a reading of Psalm 23, The Lord Is My Shepherd.
Mr Hunt’s coffin was carried out of the church as the organ played Blue Moon — the anthem of his favourite football club, Manchester City and a loud round of applause broke out as the cortege drove away.
A private committal was held afterwards for family only at East Lancashire Crematorium in Radcliffe.
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