After leaving Bermuda last year I regularly check in on the Royal Gazette website to keep up to date on what is happening and Skype with friends but nothing prepared me for the shock of finding out Neil had died doing what he loved most - diving.
I worked closely with Neil in Bermuda on numerous investigations and he always had time to stop and chat. Many an evening I'd been called out to an injured stray cat and met him at his surgery and ended up chatting for hours in the car park. He never seemed in a rush and rarely if ever billed the SPCA for his call outs.
He was one of those people who had an amazing passion for life and was always bouncing off the walls. One of his many many talents was music and he could seemingly play any musical instrument he put his hands on. You would find him at street parties and events wandering around with a saxophone around his neck or if you were really lucky he would pull out his harmonica and just start riffing.
His timing sometimes could leave a lot to be desired and I well remember the day when we were just leaving magistrates court and he decided it would be a good time to play a tune. No sooner had the inner courtroom door closed then he started playing some blues , walking through the court building, through the metal detector and out into the street. Only Neil could get away with something like that.
'Diego' is just one of the hundreds of animals he examined for me in my 2 1/2 years in Bermuda.
A truly amazing, unique man.
He had just finished filming a TV show called 'Ocean Vet' and I'm sure it would have been a massive hit and resulted in him travelling the world (even more than he already did) and becoming a Superstar not just in Bermuda and the marine community.
Here he is before he actually managed to get his shot at television - quite prophetic.
Dr Burnie - Filmed at the Bermuda Aquarium