Friends and family of an Abu Dhabi teacher have been left stunned by his death in a train accident in Germany. Darren Duggan, 38, had been on an Eid break in Munich to attend the Oktoberfest beer festival when he was hit by an S-Bahn train while returning to his campground in the early hours of Monday morning.
He was on holiday with his wife, Liz, who had gone back to the camp ground earlier. The couple, originally from Queensland in Australia, were married in April 2008. They moved last April to Abu Dhabi, where Mr Duggan worked for Nord Anglia Education, a teacher training organisation contracted to the Abu Dhabi Education Council. He also has a teenage daughter in Australia. Derek Griffin, a fellow teacher based in Abu Dhabi, said Mr Duggan's friends in the capital had been stunned by his death.
"He was one of those larger-than-life characters and he was hugely popular among his friends in Abu Dhabi," he said. "He was also a committed educator, working in teacher upgrading in the capital. "He'll be greatly missed, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Liz, and his daughter." Mr and Mrs Duggan had been in Germany on an organised tour with The Fanatics, an Australian company that specialises in arranging for supporters to attend sporting events and festivals.
Oktoberfest began in 1810 as a one-off festival to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig, but has grown into the biggest public festival in the world, spanning 16 days from mid-September to early October. Last year, it was attended by nearly six million people. Mr Duggan had attended the festival before, as part of a rugby tournament in southern Germany in 2001. A statement from Munich police, quoted by the news agency AFP, said Mr Duggan is thought to have died instantly in the accident, near the Munich suburb of Laim. He and a 25-year-old New Zealand man, who was not identified by the police, were on their way home to the campground.
"The two men apparently did not see the approaching S-Bahn before one of them was hit by the engine and fatally injured," the police said. Both men were described as inebriated. The New Zealander was unhurt but treated for shock, police added. A spokeswoman for Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said consular assistance had been offered to Mrs Duggan, Australian media reported. The Fanatics founder, Warren Livingstone, said in Sydney that the company's staff were "shattered" and were trying to help Mr Duggan's family, according to the reports. The company's manager, based in Munich, declined to comment.
News of Mr Duggan's death prompted an outpouring of support on the couple's profile pages on the social networking site Facebook. Within 24 hours of the news, Mrs Duggan's profile had received more than 80 messages from friends and family in Australia, Europe and the Middle East - including fellow teachers and workmates in Abu Dhabi - expressing grief and shock and offering support. The couple had created a website for their beachfront wedding in April last year in Australia, after which they predicted the website might "morph into 'The Joy of Marriage' blog or 'We're having triplets!' or something like as our journey continues". But no further updates were published before Monday's accident.
A former teaching colleague in Australia, the Sunshine Coast Grammar School principal, Nigel Fairbairn, told Brisbanetimes.com.au that Mr Duggan's friends in the region, just north of Brisbane, were shocked and saddened by the news. He described Mr Duggan as "a very likeable and loyal person with a strong sense of justice [and] was a valued member of our school community who was well-known for his great sense of humour".