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Parents name boat after 'inspirational' Olivia (20) killed outside nightclub

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Nigel and Paula Burt, Olivia's parents
Nigel and Paula Burt, Olivia's parents

THE father of tragic student Olivia Burt urged people to "live life to its fullest" as he paid an emotional tribute to his daughter at a ceremony to name a boat after her at Lymington Town Sailing Club.

Olivia (20) was killed when a metal barrier fell on her as she was queuing to get into a nightclub at a bar in Durham in February where she was studying natural sciences at the city’s university.

She was a very talented sailor who was a member of the British Sailing Club and both the Royal Yachting Associates Junior and Youth Squads. She was also represented the British Sailing team in the European championships.

Part of a collection taken at a celebration of Olivia’s life held at All Saints Church, Milford, where she was from, in March this year was donated to the town’s sailing club’s Sailability charity which helps disabled people go on yachts and powerboats.

Using the money a safety boat which had been vandalised earlier this year was refurbished and renamed the ‘Olivia Burt’ in her honour at a ceremony held at the sailing club last Friday.

Both of Olivia’s parents were at the ceremony and her father Nigel made a speech afterwards in which he spoke of his daughter’s love of sailing and the fact that she ‘did so much more than many people do in a lifetime.”

His wife Paula standing beside him Mr Burt told members of the sailing club who had turned up for the ceremony: “Paula and I would like to thank Lymington Sailability for inviting us here today. Many of you will have heard – either on the news, or from friends – about the tragic death of our wonderful daughter Olivia in February.

“Our loss has devastated us, but we are pleased that the donations, so generously given by Olivia’s family and many friends at her funeral have enabled Sailability to refurbish their safety rig.

“Olivia’s death came as a shock to everyone, all the more so because of her kindness, selflessness and courage which shone through everything she did.

“The number of people she inspired and who have benefited in some small way from Olivia’s is countless, and therefore, so is the number of people in whose memories she will live on.”

Talking about his only daughter, who was on a night out with friends when she died, he spoke of her generosity saying: “Her willingness to help anyone out whether she knew them or not, another attribute that stood out about Olivia was the she never passed up an opportunity. “

Mr Burt also told the crowd how Olivia had always had a love of sailing from a very early age. He said: “She stated sailing when she was five at the Salterns in Oppies, moving Lasers, 4.7s and Radials.

“She sailed internationally in GBR teams in all of these classes. “

He also spoke of her wonderful personality which had won her many friends including at the sailing club. He said: “With her infectious smile, Olivia achieved many things in her short life.

"As a pupil at Bournemouth School for Girls, she was fully involved in the school community leading her to being chosen as Head Girl; she earned her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s award, she played her clarinet and saxophone in bands and many more things besides. All these things just scratch the surface of Olivia’s achievements.

“The message we would like to pass on to you today is that life is fragile. Olivia was only 20 years old when she died, but she did so much more than many people do in a lifetime.

“So don’t let opportunities pass you by, do as much as you possibly can and live life to its fullest.”

He urged people to adopt Olivia’s approach to life saying: “Follow her example, smile, be kind, help and encourage others to be the best they can be; and do not be afraid to take, and seek opportunities.”

Thanking Sailability for naming a boat after their daughter Mr Burt said: “With all of this in mind, we know that Olivia would be as pleased as we are to see her name on this RIB and know that it was going to help many people to get out on the water and enjoy sailing a sport she loved and through which she made so many friends.”

Mr Burt was given a round of applause after he finished his speech and he and his wife were then invited to help name the boat by pouring champagne on the name plate.

Speaking to the A&T after the ceremony Mr Burt said: “It is a devastating thing that has happened. But out of Olivia dying an act of good has come out of it. We’re very pleased that we have been able to help the Sailability and I feel that to have ‘Olivia’ here to look after people on the water is wonderful.

"She sailed since she was five, she loved it. She had so many friends from all over the country that she met through sailing. This boat will be out at the front looking over people and helping them which is something she would be pleased about.”

The traditional naming ceremony in which prayers were made to ancient Gods of the sea and wind was carried out by Ally Gunn, chairman of Lymington Sailability.

She paid tribute to Olivia’s parents and the congregation who gave so many donations at her funeral saying: “When I was told we were a beneficiary of the collection I was so overwhelmed. It’s such a lovely gesture. The boat which was called Bertie was our safety boat and earlier this year it was vandalised.

“Olivia’s legacy has meant that we have been able to refurbish it and return it to the water renaming it after her. She was a local girl who loved sailing and her name will live on here forever.”

During the ceremony Mrs Gunn revealed: “When I received the a telephone call to say that we would be beneficiaries of the retiring collection at Olivia’s funeral, as a mother and a fellow human being, I felt a stab of sadness in my heart.

“And total confusion reigned in my head as to how and why at times life is so cruel. Today I would like to show that out of that great sadness there can be some happiness and joy.

“The monies collected at Olivia’s funeral have paid to have essential repairs done to our lead safety boat, a boat that is vital, that will allow us to do we what we do, enable people regardless of circumstances to enjoy the sports of sailing and powerboating – Olivia’s great passion.”

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