The Northern Echo has apologised after publishing an obituary to a “local hero” who wasn’t actually dead.
The family of Charlie Donaghy said it was “devastated” after the Echo’s website wrongly reported his death on Sunday morning, while his son described it as “the worst piece of fake news ever”.
The Newsquest title published a story claiming Donaghy had died aged 83, saying: “Grassroots sport loses one of its local heroes.”
It ran with the headline: “Tow Law and County Durham stalwart Charlie Donaghy dies.”
But later the same day, the obituary was taken down and an apology was published, which said: “…we are pleased to be able to report that Mr Donaghy is alive and well.”
Donaghy’s son Ian posted on Twitter that he had “a day from hell” after the article was published, with his phone going “mad” with messages.
“Because Dad hasn’t died!” he said. “Dad is still alive. Unbelievable! My sister is in bits! Livid!”
In a statement published by the Echo, Donaghy’s family said the publication of the obituary had caused “immeasurable distress”.
“To allow this to be released onto the internet without checking with our family is unforgivable,” they said.
“Please ensure this never happens to anyone else again as you cannot unhear or unread that your father is dead.”
The Echo said it checked with three independent sources, including a representative of one of the clubs Donaghy worked with, who all confirmed the sad news before publication.
“We removed the story from our website and social media channels as soon as we were made aware that it was incorrect,” the Echo said.
“We apologise unreservedly for our mistake, and for any understandable distress and devastation that was caused to Mr Donaghy, his family and friends.”