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UK rockers drown on Brazil tour

January 23rd, 2010

Five-piece heavy metal band After Death were formed in 2005

Rescuers are trying to recover the body of a UK rock guitarist who drowned with a band-mate he tried to save in Brazil.

Timothy Kennelly, 18, remains missing presumed dead after going to the aid of Leon Villalba, 21, whose body washed up on a beach in Aracaju on Thursday.

Drummer Barry O’Connor, 22, who tried in vain to resuscitate his friend, told the BBC the waves got heavier before a “massive” one took them both under.

The five members of London-based heavy metal band After Death were on tour.

‘Help, help, help’

Mr O’Connor, from Islington in north London, said: “Initially we were crying our hearts out, but we’ve got to try to pull through to get the boys home for their families’ sakes and all our sakes.

“We’ll all grieve in our own time, we’re just so desperate for them to find Tim’s body – it’s the least his family deserve.”

The drummer said all five band members went to the deserted beach at about midday on Thursday and he and the other two musicians started “messing around” in the waves.

“The waves started getting heavier and I came out, but Tim and Leon went out further and looked really confident.

“The next thing I know, I heard Leon screaming ‘help, help, help’. Tim heard him and turned around and swam toward him, he exerted lots of energy doing that and by the time he got to Leon, he was struggling also.”

He said the other two band members – Marc Yacas, 22, and Toby ‘Kendo’ Westbourne, 21, – could not hear his shouts for help at first but soon summoned help including a surfboarder who started searching.

‘Massive impression’

“After 20 minutes Leon’s body washed up on the shore. His body was limp and he’d gone white. We pulled him out and I tried to resuscitate him with mouth to mouth.

“There was so much water, he had foam and water coming from his mouth, it was unbelievable. We did our best.”

He said paramedics eventually turned up and also tried but failed to revive him.

The band had been on tour in Brazil playing local venues for just over a week, and were the support act for the band Master.

Mr O’Connor, who went to school with Leon and had known him for 12 years, said he had been the “driving force” behind the band and he would trust him with his life.

“He was the nicest guy, so organised and he really pushed the band to get to this sort of position,” he said.

He said Mr Kennelly, from Ealing in west London, joined the band six months ago but it felt like he had known him for years.

“Tim straight away made a massive impression… he was full of information, loved a laugh and was on cloud nine. He was so much more mature than 18, a great guy all round.”

Mr O’Connor said two other bands on the tour would continue to play but he and his other two band members would be heading home to Britain.

He said: “The tour was great for everyone, and this was my first time out of the UK. But when we get back to London I’ll probably tear up my passport, we’re just trying to keep our heads together.”

A spokesman for the band’s record label, Death Toll Records, confirmed the deaths and said it was “unbelievable” and “so sad”.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have seen reports of the deaths of two British nationals and are urgently investigating.”

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