'Francis was a marvellous son and he loved his children so much'
THE mum of a Five Roads steelworker who died in a horrific workplace accident has paid tribute to her son a decade on — saying the tragedy "still feels like yesterday".
Dad-of-three Frank Coles, 42, was found dead by a workmate after suffering serious head injuries when his neck became trapped by a piece of machinery during a night shift at the Tata Steel plant — then Corus — in Trostre, during the early hours of January 4, 2003.
Although 10 years have now passed, his mum, Christine Coles, of Maesyrhaf, says it has not become easier to deal with her grief.
"It's still brand new to me and after 10 years I still get vivid flashbacks from when it happened," the 75-year-old said.
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"I can never get to sleep on January 4, and I find myself going through all the events that happened up until when the police called to my house at 3am to tell me what happened."
Mrs Coles said her son was much loved by everyone, and that she had never heard anyone say a bad word against him — his popularity proven when more than 400 people attended his funeral.
She said: "The church was full. I could not believe my eyes to see the streets full of people.
"I have the last photo that was taken of him while on holiday in Andalucia in my lounge — I take it everywhere and look at it every day. It's part of me.
"I was suffering from breast cancer at the time and Francis (Frank) would always take me to radiotherapy.
"He told me at Christmas time that he would take me back abroad to Barbados, and I was looking forward to having a nice holiday together, but then the accident happened."
The new year is an extra solemn time for Mrs Coles, as her husband Eric suffered a stroke and died at the age of 80 on January 1, 2009.
She said: "It is always a terrible time over the new year.
"At the time Eric died he knew that it was coming around to the sixth anniversary of Francis's death. I don't think the stress helped."
Before becoming wheelchair bound, Mrs Coles would remember her son by laying a wreath on his grave at Horeb cemetery on the anniversary of his death.
Mr Cole's children Shaun, Hannah and Victoria also found his sudden death difficult to cope with, especially given their young ages at the time.
Despite their lives being rocked at an early age, the siblings have managed to go on and achieve their goals.
Shaun, 25, and Hannah, 23, both attended university and have gone on to excel at roles within statutory bodies, and Victoria, 19, is studying nursing.
Mrs Coles said: "They have done very well considering their father died when they were such a young age.
"It was terrible for them at the time. For a long time they used to come to my house and we would make a wreath for Fathers Day and Christmas for him.
"I am very proud at them for bouncing back and all doing so well — they have never forgotten their dad.
"I have been keeping a scrap book for the last 10 years for the children to know what happened to their dad when they are older, and this story will be the last chapter of that.
"He was a marvellous son and he loved his children so much."