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Mosquito Bites Blamed For Death Of Expat Volunteer Teaching In Laos

An east Lancashire man who was working in Laos has died after contracting a tropical disease believed to have been caused by mosquito bites.

HGV driver David Murray, also known as ‘Muzz’ to his friends, was three months into a year-long stay at a project aimed at teaching young orphans English when bites on his legs became infected.

The 39-year-old was taken to hospital by volunteers at the Sae Lao Project, in the village of Nathong, in Laos, a country bordering Thailand, but died after going into shock, his family said.

Mr Murray’s body is due to be repatriated through Manchester Airport on Wednesday, with a coroner’s investigation likely to be launched this week.

His devastated parents broke down at their home in Woodside Avenue, Rishton, as they paid tribute to the former Billington St Augustine’s RC High School pupil.

Mr Murray’s father Michael said: “He was really dedicated. He was giving something back in life, probably more than what we have given back when you think about it.

“He was a saint to the people he was helping in Laos. He was very quiet and did not brag about things, but all this time he has been doing this good work.”

His mother Rita added: “We last spoke to him on Skype four days before he died. He was so happy. He had found something good in life, that’s our only comfort.”

Sengkeo Frichitthavong, who runs the Sae Lao Project, said Mr Murray was taken to a nearby hospital after the infection took hold earlier this month and was given medicine.

After his condition deteriorated, he was taken to another hospital, where blood tests revealed he had typhus, a diseased caused by Rickettsia bacteria, and dengue fever.

David Murray, also known as 'Muzz' to his friends
David Murray, also known as ‘Muzz’ to his friends

Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is a mosquito-borne tropical disease, which can develop into the life-threatening dengue haemorrhagic fever.

Mr Murray was then transferred to the larger Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane, where he died surrounded by his friends and fellow volunteers last Sunday.

Documents issued by the hospital revealed the diagnosis was septic shock and offered a cause of death of ‘prolonged shock’, although a post-mortem could be carried out at Royal Blackburn Hospital as part of a coroner’s investigation.

The former Blackburn College student had been losing weight and feeling weak and tired, even falling sleep during the day while working at the project, his parents said.

Mr Frichitthavong said: “His blood pressure was low and his temperature was low. We did not understand it was deadly until it cost his life.”

Mr Murray had flown out to Laos on March 5 after giving up his flat in Fielding Lane, Great Harwood, for a year, and putting his BMW up for sale.

With his bags full of clothes and gifts donated for youngsters cared for by the project, Mr Murray boarded his plane with plans to spend a year abroad after two previous successful and happy visits in recent years.

In the weeks before his death, Mr Murray regularly updated his friends and family on social media on how he was enjoying life in south-east Asia.

He posted pictures showing the gradual progression of a wooden hut built on stilts, and selflessly asked for donations to help send locals to university.

Mr Murray also thanked people for their kind wishes on his birthday last month, and said: “It really does mean a lot when you’re far from home.”

Life in Laos for Mr Murray meant harvesting peanuts in 30 degree heat, treating young locals to Indian food for the first time, which he said was ‘giving them a taste of Blackburn’, and hunting frogs in a rice field.

He also helped to run the project’s restaurant, often going shopping in the morning for fresh ingredients.

In a statement released online shortly after Mr Murray’s death, the Sae Lao Project said: “When his body will be transferred to England, most of the people from Sae Lao and Nathong will go to Vientiane to say goodbye to him.

“What we all would like to remember is that David had been so generous and caring for the three brothers, Khae, Home and Siangnoy, as well as for everybody else at Sae Lao and in Nathong.

“The week before it happened, he gave an amazing karaoke concert when Sae Lao opened its doors to the Nathong villagers.”

Friends in Laos took some of Mr Murray’s clothes to a nearby temple as an offering to Buddha, while tributes flooded in on Facebook.

His friend Nina Coates said: “Gone but not forgotten in Laos or Rishton. Rest peacefully, Muzz, you were a good man.”

Jackie Oldham added: “Rest in peace, David, a wonderful caring man who has been taken too soon. Sending love to all David’s family.”

And fellow volunteer Victoria Wood said: “So, so sorry to everyone whose life was touched by such an amazing person. ‘Dabid’, you are going to be deeply missed.”

A funeral service will be arranged in due course by Champ Funeral Services in Clayton-le-Moors.

Source: Lancashire Telegraph