THE dad of a 16-year-old boy who drowned at a beauty spot as he celebrated the end of school said the family had been blown away by the tributes paid in his memory.
Simon Haycock said son Sam had been with friends at Ulley reservoir on Friday when he had decided to jump in and got into difficulties.
A search team found his body later that afternoon.
Simon, of East Dene, said he and wife Gaynor had been moved by the number of people who had paid tribute to his “happy little boy” and joined a balloon release at Clifton Park on Monday.
“It’s absolutely blown me away how many people he’s touched,” said Simon.
Simon described Sam — a pupil at Oakwood High School and a star judo player — as “a very cheeky, lively chappy”.
Simon said many people over the last few days had told him how courteous and polite Sam had been.
“It’s exactly what you would want to hear and what you would hope they would be like when they left the house,” he said.
Simon said Sam had been playing judo since the age of seven and loved it.
“We competed all over Europe,” he said. “He did absolutely amazingly.”
Sam, who had ADHD, was so successful he was called up to the Adaptive Team GB squad, a team for players with special needs.
Simon said his family had received tributes from judo players as far away as Brazil, Germany, Holland and Norway.
“He was immensely proud of all the trophies and awards he received,” he said.
Simon said Sam had gone to Ulley with three friends.
“They thought: ‘We are leaving school and it’s a nice day’ and they have decided to go on their bikes,” he said.
“I don’t know why he went up there because he’s never been up there before in his life.
“They got up there and, boys being boys, he’s decided: ‘I’m going to jump in’.
“Sam jumped in and, not being a strong swimmer, and with the shock of the cold water, he immediately got into trouble.
“His friend went in to try and save him and got into difficulty, too.”
Simon said he had been to see Sam’s friend this week and thanked him for trying to save his son.
“I have given him a hug and expressed my gratitude for an unselfish act,” he said.
“He’s gone in without thinking of his own safety to try and save my boy and I can never repay him.”
Simon said he wanted to thank everybody who had paid tribute since Sam’s death.
“The love and support we have received has been overwhelming,” he said.
Sam leaves behind his parents, Simon and Gaynor, brothers James, Josh, Thomas, Andrew and Mikey, and grandparents Tony Haylock and Sheila Haycock.