Tragic Londonderry soldier was ‘living the dream’

Trooper Mark McKeen, 23, who lost his life in a traffic accident in England on Monday.
Trooper Mark McKeen, 23, who lost his life in a traffic accident in England on Monday.

The young soldier from Londonderry who died in a car accident on Saturday was living his dream in the Army, the city’s deputy mayor has said.

Trooper Mark McKeen, 23, was killed along with a colleague from the Royal Dragoon Guards when the Seat Ibiza they were travelling in collided with a tree near Catterick in Yorkshire.

Councillor Gary Middleton was both a school friend of Mark at Lisneal College and a fellow Army cadet.

He said the sad news from England was “devastating”.

Cllr Middleton said: “He was a really likeable character and would have offended nobody. I got to know him well through the Army cadets and were away on many residentials, and you always knew Mark was geared for that line of public service – in quite a brave and admirable line of work.

“I’m not surprised he excelled in the Army. He was academic as well in terms of his school work, but I just knew his mind was not on continuing his education – it was to get into the Army.”

Trooper McKeen had served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. His commanding officer, Major Hugh Pearce-Gould, said he was “a well-rounded individual and a first class soldier”, whose loss would be keenly felt by all who knew him.

Major Pearce-Gould added: “He was a popular and engaging member of the regiment. He served with great courage and dedication on two difficult and dangerous tours of Afghanistan.

“His untimely loss is a terrible tragedy but his memory will always be cherished by The Royal Dragoon Guards and those of us fortunate enough to have known him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

The other soldier who died in the collision was 20-year-old Private Codie Richardson, from Stockton-on-Tees.