Bundy sailor's mystery death

Karen Bailey mourns the loss of her son, Seaman Jay Wilkie, who died onboard HMAS Launceston on Tuesday.
Karen Bailey mourns the loss of her son, Seaman Jay Wilkie, who died onboard HMAS Launceston on Tuesday.

KAREN Bailey and her family should have been celebrating son Jay Wilkie’s 28th birthday tomorrow - but instead they are planning his funeral.

The Bundaberg South family has been shattered at the news Able Seaman Wilkie, a cook on HMAS Launceston, could not be resuscitated after being found not breathing in his cabin early Tuesday morning.

He died the same day he was due to visit his sick grandmother on the Sunshine Coast, and had then planned a return visit to Bundaberg to celebrate his birthday.

The cause of Able Seaman Wilkie’s death, while the vessel was docked in Darwin, is being investigated by Northern Territory police.

An autopsy was performed yesterday but the results are yet to be released.

Mrs Bailey said the family was struggling with not knowing what happened to Able Seaman Wilkie, who joined the Navy in 2003, but she was determined his birthday would not be a sad occasion.

“We are going to do something on Friday for his birthday,” she said.

“We just know that we are going to celebrate his life somehow.”

Seaman Wilkie’s parents and siblings gathered yesterday at the family home to pull together and swap stories about the man they said was outgoing, sporty, a larrikin and “a bit of a flirt”.

“When he was home he would always cook me breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day,” Mrs Bailey said.

“He just loved cooking for the family.”

Sister Keira said the sailor was a renowned practical joker.

“When it came to Christmas, his presents were always a trick,” she said.

“Once he went to a hotel and got those little shampoos and conditioners and wrapped it up all nice. When I was opening it I thought I had gotten something really nice. He was always doing stuff like that for gifts.”

Keira said her brother was always full of energy.

“He couldn’t sit in one spot, he was always moving around, he didn’t know what to do with himself if there was nothing to do,” she said.

“You would come home from a big day and he’d want to go do something like go for a walk or kick the footy.”

Brother Matthew said it was impossible to be in a bad mood around Jay.

“If he thought you were in a bad mood, he would just laugh at you,” he said.

“He’d always be able to pull you out of the biggest slump.”

A chaplain from the Defence Force is staying in close contact with the family, who expects to hold an official naval funeral once Able Seaman Wilkie’s body is released.

Police investigations are continuing.

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