Parents pay tribute to their talented teenage son who drowned on a fishing trip at a Norfolk lake
© Archant Norfolk 2012
The parents of a teenager who drowned on a fishing trip have paid tribute to their talented son and described their heartbreak at never knowing how he ended up in the water of a Norfolk lake.
A long summer appeared to stretch before Scott Meekings after finishing school and completing his exams last year.
The 16-year-old planned to spend the summer months fishing and with a holiday to Snowdonia in August to celebrate his parents both turning 50.
“The last six months of his life he was getting happier and happier,” his father, Clive, said. “Life was getting good for him.”
Scott was born and brought up in Dereham and went to the Douglas Bader school at the former RAF Coltishall base, joining in year nine from Neatherd High School.
“It was only supposed to be temporary but he loved the school so much,” Clive said.
“He was not academic but his artwork was unbelievable. His brain was just amazing.”
Although he did not excel in the traditional subjects, Scott had a natural talent for sketching, photography and making things.
His drawings of candles were used on the front of the school’s Christmas cards, and he downloaded designs for music speakers off the internet and built them from scratch.
At school he gave his teachers nicknames and his mum Judy said her son would get annoyed if school was cancelled because of the snow or if the taxi which took him in each day was late.
The readjustment for the family and his dog Alfie, a whippet, has been huge.
Their detached home on Larks Place opposite Dereham Town FC was meant to be for a family of three.
The couple, who have been married for 18 years, had a surprise 17th birthday present for Scott.
They would teach him to drive and give him Clive’s van.
Judy found the forms she had filled in for her son to get a driving licence. “It is just heartbreaking,” she said.
But the memories and signs of Scott shine through in photos on their walls.
“He was a real character,” Clive said. “He just grinned all the time and laughed. We miss that smile.”
Despite his cheeky side, Scott took fishing seriously, taking time to set up his rods and equipment.
“Messing about was not an option,” Clive said.
Judy recalled: “If I went down to see him, he would go, shush, shush.”
The last thing his parents expected was for him to get into difficulty fishing.
“We would worry about him getting into trouble if he went out into town, or riding his bicycle in the dark without lights on,” Judy said.
Fishing was where Scott was at his happiest – where he felt secure.
Clive, who works in the building trade, said: “He was doing something he loved, but is that the way you want to go? I haven’t been fishing since. The garage is full of fishing gear. People say to me, you must go because Scott would want you to go. But I want to go with Scott.”
Scott was found floating face down in shallow water at Coston Lakes between Dereham and Wymondham about one metre from the shore at 3.30pm on June 28 last year.
He had fished plenty of times by himself before and was on his first, lone, overnight trip.
“I just wish I had stayed,” his father said. “But it was such a safe place, especially where he was.”
Clive had helped Scott set up his camp far back from the water’s edge for his overnight trip.
He stayed with him until about 8.30pm before heading off.
That night Scott sent his mother a text at about 2.30am saying he had caught a 15lb fish, and the next morning he spoke to his father about being picked up that evening.
But at 3.30pm a fellow fisherman saw him in the water and raised the alarm.
“Things go through your mind,” said Judy. “It is horrible not knowing, but that is something we have to come to terms with somehow.”
“The not knowing has ruined our life,” her husband said. “Nobody can put a finger on what happened. All you can do is guess.”
At Scott’s inquest last Monday, coroner William Armstrong recorded a verdict of death by drowning but said it was a “mystery” how the teenager ended up in the water.
Judy has been down to the spot a couple of times since and sat there to try and work out what happened.
“I just keep looking and thinking what happened,” she said.
The last time she saw her son was as he smiled at her through the window of their home.
Clive and Scott had driven off to Coston Lakes but forgotten the coolbox with all Scott’s supplies in and had driven back.
“He held it up and pulled a face,” Judy said.
Scott got into his fishing through his father and excelled at the sport.
Clive said: “I’ve been fishing all my life and I took him from the age of seven. He just went from strength to strength. We would go most weekends all around Norfolk.
“He had been fishing by himself during the day before – this is what we find so hard to understand. I’ve never known anything like it to happen. It just doesn’t happen in the fishing world.”
But the couple have found some comfort in the response from Scott’s friends.
Judy said: “When it first happened I didn’t know he had so many friends. It was like a florist in here. All these kids were just walking up here with flowers.”
Clive and Judy thanked everybody who had donated to events held since Scott’s death.
The family has raised £2,500 in Scott’s memory.
They have donated £1,000 to his former school which will be used to buy equipment for a new classroom.
Some of the money will also be used for a bench in Dereham Recreation Ground.