The family of a young footballer found dead in bed after suffering a cardiac arrest have described the impact his “incredibly shocking” death has had on them.
Jake Pickford, 16, from Abertysswg, near Rhymney , died suddenly on August 15 last year and was discovered when his sister Chloe went to wake him for food.
It was an sudden and devastating shock to Jake’s family who had heard him up late playing video games just the night before he died.
An inquest at Newport Coroners’ Court on Thursday concluded that Jake had died as a result of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS) and a conclusion of death by natural causes was recorded.
The talented footballer, who played for teams such as Aberbargoed Buds FC and Pengam FC, remains a much-loved son to his mother Gaye and father Paul and a much-loved brother to Chloe and his younger brother Alfie.
A statement from the family read: “The way we lost Jake was incredibly shocking. We are a very close family and we are finding it very difficult to accept he is gone forever.
“Our lives will never be the same but we will always be a family of five.”
Describing their son and brother, the family said: “Jake was a happy, cheerful boy who had huge passion for football, enjoyed playing on his XBox and going out with his friends.
“He was a quiet and polite boy and is missed immeasurably. He would never be seen without holding or kicking a football.
“He excelled at his football, having played for many local teams and having trials for Cardiff City and Bristol City when he was 10 – and of course his favourite team was Liverpool.
“Despite being chosen for these teams, he much preferred playing with his local teams as he had made long-term friends along the way, and this is what he chose to do.”
Since Jake’s death, the community have rallied round the Pickford family and a number of fundraising events have been held to mark his memory and raise awareness of cardiac arrest in young people.
Idris Davies School, in Rhymney, has allowed the family to hold an annual football tournament largely run by Jake’s friends, with the proceeds donated to a defibrillator for the school and the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), and a football team in Abertysswg called Pickford Stars has been set up in the North Gwent League.
These is also an achievement award named after Jake at the school’s annual prize evening for pupils.
A memorial garden near the football pitch of Idris Davies School has been built by Jake’s father, school colleagues and friends and serves as a spot where people can go to remember him.
So far, £9,000 has been donated to CRY in Jake’s memory and they have started a fund in his name called the Jake Anthony Pickford Memorial fund, with all proceeds going towards heart screening for young people in south Wales.
Jake’s family said: “Our community, friends, family and staff at Idris Davies School have been extremely supportive – it has overwhelmed us.
“We now realise that 12 young people lose their lives in a similar way to Jake and this is why we feel it is so important to raise awareness.
“No family should have to go through what we are.
“As a family, we are heartbroken, but we will continue to fundraise in Jake’s memory so that he is never forgotten and to hopefully save the lives of others.”