‘Life will never be the same...’

Always smiling: Gareth Stringfellow
Always smiling: Gareth Stringfellow
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The family of a talented footballer who died when he fell on to a train track today paid an emotional tribute to him, saying he will never be forgotten.

It is six months since Gareth Stringfellow, 18, was found on the track in Coppull, near Chorley, in early hours of June 2 after he plunged 20ft from a bridge.

At the inquest, it was revealed the ex-Holy Cross Catholic High School pupil had been twice the legal driving limit and it was feared that he fell.

Today, his dad Jason said life would never be the same without Gareth, known to his friends as ‘Stingy’.

He said: “We will be going up to Charnock Richard Crematorium to visit him. When I have my lunch or am in the area I go to the spot where he died and there is a nice memorial.

“There are still people talking about him on Facebook and they don’t want him to be forgotten.

“It is harder for us especially at this time of year.

“He loved Christmas because he would say, ‘I don’t want anything’ but we would always find out and on Christmas Day he would open presents with such a great big smile on his face.”

Gareth had the world at his feet as a promising young footballer at Preston North End, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers.

Despite being released by the Deepdale club, former North End star and his manager at Kendal United, Lee Ashcroft, claimed that it was only a matter of time before he was snapped up by a Football League side.

However, Gareth was also a teenager dealing with aspergers syndrome, affecting how he coped with social situations.

At the age of 14, he was taken under the care of the Children’s Adolescent Mental Support team and they helped him until he was 17.

He was re-assessed but it was felt at the time that Gareth was getting his life on track and aspergers alone did not come under their remit for treatment by the adult care team.

It was a decision that Jason and his wife Elaine continue to campaign for answers over, saying they feel he was “dumped” by health officials.

At the inquest, deputy coroner Simon Jones admitted that he “had some difficulty in understanding how Gareth was a 16-year-old and it was felt that he was in need of care, while when he became 17 he was not.”

They are now taking their battle, with the support of Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle, further to stop any other people being affected in the same way.

He said: “As a father I cannot just sit back and hear about a similar case to Gareth’s in the news and thinking how that family was affected.

“I am campaigning to meet the people who are in charge to see how the situation has changed to stop it happening again.

“Gareth could have been knocked down by a bus and that would have been it.

“But he didn’t we need closure and that will come from speaking to the people who treated him and made the decisions and how it has changed.

“We have had our son taken away from us and we want some answers.”