'Very talented' Scottish chef, 26, died after falling into river on way home from night out

Jonathon Donaldson's boss described him as "very talented" and one of the "best steak chefs" he'd ever employed.

Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 4:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 11:56 am

A fundraiser has been set up to help pay for the funeral of a 26-year-old West Lothian chef who slipped and fell into a river on his way home from a night out.

Jonathon Donaldson, also known as Johnny, went missing on Monday, November 11th but his body was found by police on Sunday after what his family described as a "tragic accident."

Speaking to the Evening News, Jonathon's cousin Vicki Graham said her 16-year-old daughter, Becca, set up a Gofundme page on Monday night in a bid to help the family cover the funeral costs. More than £250 has been raised so far.

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Jonathon Donaldson was described as a "very talented chef" by his boss. Pictures: Police/Google Maps

Vicki also referred to details on the circumstances of Jonathon's death in a Facebook post by his nephew, Gary John.

Gary's post said: "My whole heart is broken. To lose someone so close to me and my family in such a tragic accident is something I'm never going to forget or even begin to wrap my head around. How cruel this world is."

The post said that Jonathon was making his way home after a "wee drink" and "slipped into the River Almond," leading to his death.

It went on to say: "The most soul destroying thing ever because he was coming home. A tragic accident that has ended a very young life.

"I will genuinely remember all the daft little memories, silly stuff you used to got up to and the silly arguments we had.

"To the best steak maker I’ve ever met, the life and soul of any party and the biggest grump at times. I will truly miss you forever. I love you."

The search effort

Jonathon went missing on Monday, November 11th after leaving his work at The Oatridge Hotel and Restaurant in Uphall.

The chef, who was second in charge in the kitchen, was later seen near a post office in Whitburn after taking the number 600 bus.

Police launched an appeal but concerns for his well-being started to grow, prompting officers to extend the search and involve police dogs and helicopters in the Whitburn and Armadale areas on Saturday.

Vicki told the Evening News that about 20 to 30 family and friends started their own search on Saturday, which she believes prompted a step-up in the police investigation and the discovery of his body on Sunday. She said: "Thank you to everyone, including the emergency services, who took part in the search and for finding him and bringing him home."

'Always up for a laugh'

Vicki said that Jonathon, whose mother died when he was a teenager, had struggled with his loss but would "never show anyone and always smiled."

She said: "He took the loss of his mum quite hard but he's at home with his mum now."

"He was always up for a laugh and would always make you smile.

"He was hard-working and family orientated and loved his nieces and nephews."

Vicki said that all of the money raised from the Gofundme page will go towards Jonathon's funeral costs.

She added: "We just want to try and raise as much as possible. Anything donated is much appreciated. It's expensive and it's not something the family was prepared for."

Boss pays tribute

Jonathon's boss at the Oatridge, Gordon MacGregor, also paid tribute to his colleague.

He said: "He was a very talented chef and never took a day off. He was always early for his work and always stayed late.

Mr MacGregor said Johnny worked for a year and a half at the well known steakhouse, adding: "He was one of the best steak chefs I ever had. I've had the restaurant about 15 years and the first chef who was there for the opening was very good but out of about another 12 chefs, he was the best. He never once had a steak sent back.

"If my head chef was off, Johnny ran the place. He handled pressure well and he was definitely going places. He was always keen to learn every day.

"He was a very bubbly chef and he was friendly, not just to staff but with customers as well. He will be sorely missed by everyone here."

Visit HERE to donate and help cover Jonathon's funeral costs.