Moving tribute to former Sheffield man killed in Australia wildfire

Thomas Butcher
Thomas Butcher
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The partner of a Sheffield man who died trying to save his beloved horse from a wildfire in rural Australia has paid him a heartbreaking tribute.

Tom Butcher, aged 31, a mechanic from Sheffield who moved to Australia four years ago, was among four people killed fleeing the inferno which swept a farm he was working on Esperance in the west of the country.

His partner, Leila Vadnjal, paid tribute to him, recalling the memories, love and laughter the couple shared.

She said: “The day I met you I told you that we were soulmates. You were my life.

“Although I am feeling lost, I have so many memories that we shared together. The love and the laughter. I will remember and cherish our last kiss.

“Your chair is still not pushed in from Sunday and I have all the drawings still sitting there. My love for you will stay strong for my life. I love you, I miss you.”

It is thought that Mr Butcher, who tried to save the horse by loading it onto a utility carriage, died of smoke inhalation after trying to escape alongside two other women who also worked on the farm.

Another man from the same farm, an Australian national, also died in the blaze.

Mr Butcher, a mechanic, died on Tuesday afternoon in fires which destroyed more than 300,000 hectares of bushland.

Fire crews still continue to tackle the fires in areas north of Esperance, a town in the state of Western Australia.

His sister, Jessica Greenaway, who lives in Queensland, Australia, said her brother had bought sheep and planned to live in Australia and start a farm.

She said he moved to the country around four years ago and lived in Queensland before moving to Western Australia a year ago.

“I spoke to him last Friday evening and his last words to me were ‘I’m living the dream mate, I’m living the dream’,” she said.

“He was very easy going and laid back and he liked the easy laid-back lifestyle that he had found in Australia,

“He loved life. He lived every day to the max. Everybody that met Tom loved Tom.

“He died doing what he wanted to do, trying to save his horse.

“His horse was just his life. That was the reason he wanted to get his horse out.

“I don’t think any words can describe how I’m feeling.”

Mr Butcher’s parents have been informed and are due to travel to Australia tomorrow.