The parents of teenager Aiden Brookes, who died when the roof of a cave collapsed in Shropshire, have spoken of their heartbreak over the loss of their “perfect gentleman” son.
Kirsty and Ashley Brookes said they were struggling to come to terms with 16-year-old Aiden’s death and still expected him to walk in through the door.
The couple, from Paulbrook Road, Bridgnorth, said Aiden, who lost his natural dad before he was born, was the reason they met.
They said he adored his two younger brothers, Kyron, aged two and two-week-old baby Bryce – who Aiden insisted on cuddling before he left his home for the last time.
Aiden, an A-level student at Oldbury Wells School who had hoped to go to university, had been camping with friends in the local Hermitage caves in Bridgnorth when he was struck by rocks from a roof collapse, shortly before 2am on Monday.
An 18-year-old girl was also injured.
Aiden was pulled from the rubble by his frantic friends but despite efforts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead on arrival at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital.
His parents have been too grief-stricken to speak until now, devastated by his death in what police say appears to have been a “tragic accident”.
In a joint statement, the couple said: “It’s still not sunk in. We both feel totally numb and are struggling to believe it’s happened. We still expect Aiden to come in through the front door or come down the stairs from his bedroom.
“He meant everything to us – such a big part of our family. He adored his younger brothers and they adored him.
“Aiden was everything you could hope for from a son and was developing into a perfect gentleman. He was a young man with great potential and we were both very proud of him.”
Mr Brookes added: “On the night it happened, Aiden said he wouldn’t go out until he’d had a cuddle and kiss from Bryce.
“But for Aiden, Kirsty and I would never have met. He was on holiday with his mum in France and one evening insisted on everyone from our chalet going outside for a snowball fight. That’s how we met – and it was thanks to Aiden.”
Sports-loving Aiden was a regular member of Bridgnorth Rugby Club’s under 17s academy, playing on the wing or as full back. His parents said Aiden had been playing in a rugby tournament for around four hours on Sunday before leaving to meet up with his friends.
They said: “It seems not everyone was asleep in the cave when the roof collapsed, but I guess Aiden must have been so tired from his rugby exertions.”
The couple paid tribute to the efforts made to try and save him.
“We really appreciate everything they tried to do for him and we know our loss is being felt by them too, especially his girlfriend who we looked upon as almost a member of the family.
“We’d like to thank everyone for their kind messages. We have been overwhelmed by people’s kindness and can’t believe the support we have been offered. It helps us to know that Aiden made such a big impact on so many people.”