I’ve been meaning to write a few words this week since I discovered that someone I met on the Falklands had tragically lost his life, but not really knowing where to start in a situation like this I am going to put in a little background.
The plan for my trip last year had always been to head out to Port Stanley during their summertime, avoiding potentially treacherous weather conditions and therefore losing precious time on the trip. I had decided that between November and March would be fine for the journey, but following a discussion at the Sunday Times Magazine it was to become sooner rather than later. I was asked how quickly I could finish the project as they wanted it to be published as part of the magazine’s 50th anniversary edition in February 2012, so I suddenly had three weeks to plan.
One of the books I had read as part of my research was written by a man called John Smith, who moved to the Falklands during the 1970’s and has written and published a detailed account of family life during the war in 1982. Once I had tracked him down we met up for tea and began discussing my project plans, and John subsequently became instrumental during my trip. His family were incredibly welcoming and generous during my stay and his daughter Anya, who also decided to help me out, kindly welcomed me into her home, where I spent lots of time with her family including her husband Migs, and their eldest son Dan.
Out of all the people I spent time with on the Falklands I found Dan to be one of those people who was wise beyond his years, and was incredibly switched on about the world for someone in his late teens. Personally at that age I knew nothing, and don’t particularly remember thinking that I did, so I always find it remarkable when you come across someone so sure of their convictions and equally so full of questions. I found spending time in his company to become a great insight into the younger generation of Falkland Islanders, and through Dan’s eyes I saw the value of growing up in such a place. I quickly respected his opinions which in return enriched my journey, and I place a huge value on what I learned during the discussions we had.
On October 20th I was at a wedding for a family friend in the West Midlands, and after I returned home in a taxi I pulled out my phone to find Facebook filled with messages to Dan Cofre, saying “rest in peace buddy” and “never forget you friend”. It took me until the next afternoon, having sent out a few messages to islanders, to discover that Dan had taken part in what is known as a Rover Rally, where people take land rovers and other 4x4’s across the Falklands terrain. Tragically Dan was killed after he rolled a jeep whilst driving along the beach, and that was when his life was cut short. I’ve never experienced learning of someone’s death via the medium of Facebook, and having only known Dan for a short while there’s no other way I would have, but watching all the messages flood in from people all over the world you suddenly realise how far the impact spreads. Dan’s personality was indeed infectious, and from the short amount of time I spent with him I would like to say I’m honoured to have met him and shared his sense of humour.
I took the above portrait of Dan in the house where he lived with his mum, dad and brother Reuben. On Friday this week there will be a thanksgiving service at the Cathedral in Stanley, so I will most certainly be raising a glass to you Dan, you Metallica loving douchebag. Rest in peace.