A YOUNG Ilkley man has died in Cambodia while swimming underwater in a pool at his local gym.

Former Ilkley Grammar School (IGS) student, Luke Walley, aged 27, was found dead in the pool near his home in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

Luke, a sustainable energy advocacy lead for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), had been living in Cambodia for 17 months with his wife, Emilija, originally from Lithuania.

The couple had been married for less than two years.

Luke’s parents, academics who live on Wilton Road, Ilkley, were last night still awaiting full details of their eldest son’s death from Cambodian police.

But they said Luke had been swimming underwater before blacking out. It appeared that Luke had died from “shallow water blackout”, a form of underwater fainting due to a lack of oxygen to the brain, caused by swimmers holding their breath for extended periods of time.

Luke’s father, Professor John Walley, an expert in international public health at Leeds University, said family and friends were “totally devastated” by the news.

Luke was the eldest of four boys, including Sam, a lawyer, aged 25, Danny, a medical student, 22 and Alfie, a history student, aged 20.

Prof Walley said: “Luke was a brilliant young man who died while working to improve global energy sustainability.

"He was a lovely, thoughtful, genuine, person who had his entire life ahead of him.”

Professor Sophie Witter, his mother, an expert in global health economics, described Luke as “passionate about contributing to the environment and issues relating to developing countries”.

“Everyone will miss Luke,” said Prof Witter. “He was a very special person, who touched the lives of all who met him.”

Luke, who studied at IGS before taking a masters degree in physics at Imperial College, London, went to live in Cambodia last year with Emilija, whom he had married in North Yorkshire 18 months ago.

Friends also knew Luke for his love of sport and music; he was the bass player in a band called Fallen to Flux who had released an album, Transitions, in 2016.

Prof Witter said the Foreign Office in Phnom Penh had responsibility for co-ordinating the transfer of Luke’s body back to the UK.

She said she had been informed the transfer would be carried out as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the family asked if people would kindly respect their wishes to spend some time alone in grief.

“The pain of losing Luke is just so huge,” said Prof Walley.

  • To learn about the dangers of shallow water blackout, visit: www.shallowwaterblackoutprevention.org