A COMMUNITY was today united in grief after a schoolboy was tragically killed when he was struck by a car.
People took to social media and the Mail’s website which were inundated with tributes to Rhys Hewitt, 14, who was hit by a car while crossing the road outside the Stagecoach depot, in the town’s Brenda Road.
He was rushed to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, but did not recover from the serious injuries he sustained in the incident at around 7pm on Wednesday.
Rhys was a Year 10 pupil at English Martyrs School & Sixth Form College in the town, and his classmates were left devastated when headteacher Michael Lee broke the news to them yesterday morning.
Mr Lee said: “On Wednesday, he was sat in that classroom with his friends. A day later, his chair was empty.”
He told Rhys’s form class the tragic news before gathering all Year 10 students into a hastily-arranged assembly to inform them.
Mr Lee said: “As a school community we are all incredibly saddened by the news of Rhys’s death.
“I spoke to his form class and teacher on Thursday morning. The reaction was one of complete shock, then upset.
“People deal with news like this in different ways.
“To have to go into a classroom and tell children that one of their friends has died is difficult.”
Trained counsellors on the Martyrs staff have been speaking to students who were struggling to come to terms with the news.
Pupils were told they were welcome to visit the school’s chapel if they were not in the right frame of mind to attend lessons.
Mr Lee had the Martyrs flag flying at half mast, and described Rhys as a talented student with a great sense of humour.
He added: “He was a popular lad. He was very intelligent, well-liked by students and staff.
“He had a great sense of humour, he was football mad and he loved his music.
“It goes without saying our thoughts are with his family.”
Rhys, from Seaton Carew, was a keen footballer, and played as a striker for Hartlepool Youths in the Teesside Junior Football Alliance.
His coach Gary Thomson said: “Rhys has been with us since August, and in the short time I’ve known him he was a lovely kid.
“He was a pleasure to coach and a pleasure to manage. He will be sadly missed by everyone at the club, and our thoughts are with his family.”
Meanwhile Cleveland Police have issued an appeal for anyone who can help them with their investigation to come forward.
Acting Sergeant Andrew Lawson said: “This is a devastating time for the family, friends and the school and our thoughts are with them.
“We are providing specialist support to the family and have begun an investigation into the circumstances of the collision.”
Officers are appealing for anyone who may have seen Rhys or a black Vauxhall Corsa just before the collision to contact them on the non-emergency number 101.
Friends pay tribute
ONLINE tributes poured in as news of the tragedy broke.
Rhys’s personal Facebook page was packed with messages from pals who have been left devastated by news of his death.
Friends shared memories and photographs of happy times with the Seaton Carew teenager.
There were also touching messages left on the Mail’s website, as well as our Facebook page.
Michelle Stead posted: “Poor bairn. Life can change in just a split second. Treasure every moment of it. Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.”
Natalie Newnes wrote: “So sad, thoughts are with his family and thoughts are with the driver of the car also.”
Carly Louise Evans posted: “So so sad, thoughts are with his family and friends RIP xxxx.”
June Humphreys posted: “So sad my prayers and thoughts are with your parents and friends. Shine like a star in the sky tonight. RIP Rhys.”
Stacy Clark said: “This is awful. Poor young lad had his whole life ahead of him totally tragic. RIP Rhys my heart goes out to everyone who knew you xxxx.”
Titch Gill added: “So sad, RIP lad. Feel so sorry for his family and friends. How life can change in a second, you never know what’s around the corner. Sleep Tight lad. The angels will cherish you.”