A FAMILY have spoken of their grief after a ‘hard working’ and ‘popular’ father of two died just minutes after arriving in Ibiza.

Paul Birchall from Farnworth collapsed in the San Jose airport after a blood clot blocked his lungs.

Just before he collapsed, the 51-year-old texted his fiancee Andrea Houseman to say the flight had landed and he loved her.

Speaking after an inquest into his death at Bolton Coroner’s Court, the family of the former Castle Hill High School pupil described their heartbreak caused by his sudden death.

Sister, Vivienne Birchall said: “We miss him a lot and wish he could come back, but we know he can’t. Everything is gone, we are not bothered about anything, because he’s not here. We will never get over it. He was so nice. He wouldn’t want us to be sad, he would tell us to stop crying and get on with it.“It is just sad, it’s a very sad story.”

On the afternoon of June 15, Mr Birchall flew out of Manchester International Airport for a stag party trip to Ibiza.

The ground worker for Cox and Sons travelled with friends and complained of symptoms of heartburn before the flight — and bought a pack of Rennie’s to help.

Friend, Sean Hynes told the court that Mr Birchall, who lived with his fiancee Miss Houseman in Masefield Drive, drank less than the rest of the group and mainly slept on the flight which lasted up to three hours.

He collapsed in the passport control queue and friends ran to his aid, along with a doctor who had been on the flight and airport medical and security staff. He was declared dead following resuscitation attempts.

Mr Hynes added: “The paramedics took a long time to get there, 20 to 30 minutes, but the airport staff tried their best.”

An autopsy and investigation took place in Spain, followed by a postmortem examination by Philip Waugh from the Royal Bolton Hospital.

Dr Waugh found evidence of a pulmonary thromboembolis and deep vein thrombosis — where a blood clot in the leg travelled into the lung, stopping the flow of blood and oxygen.

He said alcohol did not play a part in the cause of death and it was highly unlikely the clot developed on the short haul flight — Mr Birchall’s prior complaints of pain was evidence that the thrombosis was causing problems beforehand. He also found evidence of ischemic heart disease — narrow heart arteries — which contributed to the death.

Mr Birchall saw his GP Dr Barry Silver with chest pains last year and his family also said he had complained about heartburn.

The funeral of Mr Birchall, who leaves behind daughter Jamie and son Christopher, was attended by more than 300 people.

Coroner Timothy Brennand concluded that his death was the result of natural causes. He added: “Paul to me sounded like a thoroughly decent, hard working popular individual.

“The very fact over 300 people attended his funeral is the best possible evidence to tell me of the high regard and standing he had in your affections and in the community in which he lived and worked.”