Family's heartache as teen is killed after falling off horse and into icy river
A FAMILY have spoken of their heartbreak after a 15-year-old boy drowned in a freak riding accident a week before he was due to compete in a boxing championship.
Eric Stanton (15) died despite the efforts of gardai, firefighters and paramedics to save him after he was catapulted into the icy River Glashaboy in Glanmire, Cork, when his horse was spooked and reared up.
Eric, of Avonmore Park, Mayfield, is survived by his parents Jimmy and Catherine and six siblings.
The accident happened near O'Callaghan Park in Glanmire at 6pm on Saturday.
Eric's best friend, Reuben Stillwell, was with him and raised the alarm when he realised he had been swept away by the current after being thrown from his horse.
But it was more than 30 minutes before rescue services were able to find him downstream and drag him from the flooded river.
Eric's brother Michael and sister Amy told the Herald the family were devastated by the loss of a teenager "who always had a smile on his face" and was "the life and soul of our family".
"Eric adored horses. He was just down there having fun with them. He went down there almost every day," said Michael. "Those horses wanted for nothing - he was very careful about taking great care of them."
Eric was a fitness fanatic and adored boxing.
"He was a member of Mayfield Boxing Club and was due to fight in the championships next weekend," said Michael.
"In fact, he had to lose six pounds to make his weight and that's why he was working out with the horses - to keep fit and drop a bit of weight."
Eric's boxing coach, Danny Fitzpatrick, met him and other boxers on Friday to prepare for the championships. "Eric would have gone far. He was tough and dedicated and had a great heart," said Mr Fitzpatrick.
"I saw him on Friday night when he and the other lads who are boxing in the county finals next week met in my house.
"We talked tactics and the lads weighed in. Eric was 1.4 kilos over and he was out training straight away to get it down. He was at peak fitness level because of his training, and he didn't smoke or drink."
Eric's sister Amy said he was "utterly devoted" to his family. "He was in fifth year in Mayfield Community School and was going to do his Leaving Cert," she said.
"He had a great sense of humour - he was always laughing, but he had great courage too. He had so many friends.
"Himself and Reuben were best friends. They were like glue - you'd never see one without the other," Michael added.
Reuben yesterday paid a moving tribute to his friend via social media.
"Eric, bro, you are gone but will never be forgotten. I'm going to be lost. I'm going to miss you," he wrote.
Michael and Amy paid an emotional tribute to Reuben and the emergency services for their efforts to save their younger brother.
"We will never be able to thank them for all they tried to do for him," they said. "They did absolutely everything to try and save him."
Paramedics treated Eric at the scene before he was rushed to Cork University Hospital, but he failed to regain consciousness and was pronounced dead early yesterday morning.
Local TD Billy Kelleher said it was "a terrible tragedy that has deeply shocked the community".