British PM returns from France following father's death
British Prime Minister David Cameron was set to return from France on Thursday following the death of his father whom he described as an "amazing man and a real life enhancer."
Cameron had rushed to southern France on Wednesday with brother and younger sister to be at the bedside of Ian Cameron, 77, who died in a hospital in Toulon after suffering a stroke while on holiday.
The prime minister and his family spent the night in the French presidential summer retreat at Fort Bregancon before taking a car to Nice airport, where security officials said he was to leave for Britain around 1:00 pm (1100 GMT).
Cameron thanked French President Nicolas Sarkozy for providing a helicopter which allowed him to say a final goodbye to his dying father.
The premier had flown to Nice on Wednesday after his mother had alerted the family and Sarkozy laid on a helicopter to take the group to the hospital in Toulon.
"I am extremely grateful to President Sarkozy who helped me get to the hospital while dad was still with us so I could say goodbye," Cameron said in a statement.
"We would like to thank Nicolas and everyone at the hospital who worked so hard to look after dad."
Cameron's father died soon after the family arrived at his bedside.
The prime minister spoke of the inspirational role that his father -- who was born with deformed legs -- played in his life.
"Our dad was an amazing man -- a real life enhancer. He never let the disability he was born with or the complications in later life get in the way of his incredible sense of fun and enjoyment," he said.
"He touched a lot of lives in lots of different ways and was a brilliant husband and father.
"You could never be down for long when he was around. We will miss him terribly but have a bank of memories that can never be exhausted."
Cameron said the death was "unexpected and sudden" but his father had been enjoying a "wonderful holiday" with his wife and friends when he died and "the end came quickly."
The prime minister, who came to power at the head of a coalition government in May, has experienced extreme personal highs and lows in the past 18 months.
His severely disabled six-year-old son Ivan died suddenly last year, and a baby daughter, Florence Rose Endellion, was born in August, just over two weeks before her grandfather's death.
© 2010 AFP