By Mark Shields
Thursday, January 24, 2013
A young father from Norwich was among those killed during the siege at an Algerian gas plant, it has been revealed.
The family of Sebastian John said yesterday the 26-year-old would be “forever in our hearts and eternally missed”, after he was named by the Foreign Office.
Former headteachers at Norwich School, where he had been a pupil, and work colleagues remembered Mr John as a talented aspiring engineer who had a bright future ahead of him.
Mr John was one of up to six British citizens believed to have been killed after the remote In Amenas desert plant was overrun by armed terrorists last week, sparking a four-day stand-off with Algerian troops which culminated on Friday.
His wife, Nicola, with whom he had a seven-month-old baby, yesterday paid an emotional tribute to him.
She said: “Sebastian was the most amazing person. He was a fantastic husband, father, son and brother.
“There won’t be a moment that goes by where we won’t think of him.
“We are so proud of Sebastian for all he achieved in his life. He was taken away from us too early and in the most tragic circumstances.
She added: “We will always love him, he will be forever in our hearts and eternally missed.”
A total of 37 foreign workers are believed to have died at the gas plant, part-operated by BP. Some 29 of the hostage-takers died, and three were captured by Algerian troops during a special forces mission.
Mr John was a civil and structural engineer who began work for BP last year, and had arrived in Algeria a week before the siege started to complete a training course.
He was a pupil at Norwich School between 1997 and 2004, where he won a prestigious national engineering scholarship, and represented the school at rugby.
Chris Brown, the school’s headteacher between 1984 and 2002, called Mr John’s death “a heart rending loss”.
He said: “It is 10 years since I left Norwich School but I can still see him so clearly in my mind’s eye.
“His openness of manner and approach, and his interest in design and engineering stay with me.
“On entering the sixth form he won an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship, a national award for promising work in design and technology and he was an able contributor to life at the school.”
Mr John went on to Loughborough University, where he gained a first-class degree in civil engineering, and had subsequently started to build a reputation as a young civil engineer.
Mr Brown added: “A life cut off at such an age with such promise is always a heart rending loss.”
After university, Mr John is understood to have lived in Gamston, near Nottingham. He worked at Ove Arup in Solihull before taking up his role at BP.
Last year he was selected as a president’s apprentice by the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), one of only six in the country.
Jim Hawkins, Mr John’s headteacher for his two years of sixth form, said: “I recall Sebastian as a very talented sixth former with great energy and creativity.
“At school, we were proud of his achievements, not least his Arkwright Scholarship, but also his admirable character and personality.
“His death is a tragic loss for his family and friends and the many who remember him from his school days at Norwich School.”
Current headteacher Steffan Griffiths said the school had been left saddened by the loss of “such a talented former pupil” in such unhappy circumstances.
He added: “Our thoughts in the coming days and weeks will be with Sebastian’s wife and family.
“Sebastian was a strong achiever at this school, at university and in his career.
“It is desperately sad that his exciting promise has been cut short, but we will do what we can to help the family remember the very positive effect he has had on our community.
“The school is in touch with the family and will continue to offer all possible assistance at this time.”
Former industry colleagues of Mr John also spoke yesterday of their shock at his death, and painted a picture of a young engineer with a passion for his work.
Nick Baveystock, director general of ICE, said the organisation had been “extremely shocked and saddened” to hear the news.
Former ICE president Richard Coackley, to whom Mr John was an apprentice, added: “Sebastian was a talented young civil engineer with the world at his feet.
“His mild mannered, supportive nature made him a pleasure to be around and his commitment and passion for his work and his young family shone through in all that he did.
“It was an absolute honour and a pleasure to have him as my apprentice last year and I know he will be greatly missed by all.
“I join everyone in mourning with Sebastian’s family and friends for the tragic loss of a great young man and civil engineer.”
Work was continuing last night to identify further British victims of the Algerian siege and to repatriate their bodies.
Did you know Mr John? Would you like to pay tribute to him? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01603 772423.