The father of a Sunderland teenager who died after a boat trip turned to tragedy has opened up after losing his much-loved son.
Liam Hall died after he got into difficulties off Roker beach on Tuesday afternoon when he and Jack Hanratty, 17, left their dinghy to go for a swim.
The 17-year-old, from Southwick, who had also been in the craft with girlfriend Courtney Richardson, 18, and pal Natalie Foster, 21, was pulled from the sea after a major search and rescue operation and was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, but he could not be saved.
The former Sandhill View student had been due to return to his mechanic course at Sunderland College in coming weeks.
His death has prompted an outpouring of support from his friends left devastated by the loss of Liam and now his grieving father Chris Stoker has spoken of the void left in his family’s life.
The two shared their love of cars and helped celebrate Liam’s birthday last month, as he and his sons Ryan Hall, 20, and Lewis Hall, 18, gathered to use Ryan’s quad bike.
I want to say thank you to the hospital for all they did too, they tried their best to save him.Chris Stoker
The 44-year-old car valet, who lives in Washington, said: “I just loved him to bits and I miss him.
“I wish he was still here.
“He was such a joker, he was always winding people up.
“He loved spending time with his family and loved going out with his mates.
“He was a cracking boy, a real Jack the Lad.
“I just hope my son rests in peace.
“This breaks my heart.”
Chris would also like to thank all those who went to the aid of the friends when they got into trouble.
A rescue operation was launched by the police and HM Coastguard, with volunteers from the RNLI pulling Liam from the water.
The search also saw members of the public join in the efforts, including a woman who tried to swim out to him and two kayakers.
Chris would like to speak to them to pass on his thanks first hand.
The dad rushed to the RVI after he got a phone call at work from Ryan, telling him of what had happened.
Chris said: “To all those who helped, I want to say thank you very much for that they did for Liam. “I’d like to do that personally to them.
“I want to say thank you to the hospital for all they did too, they tried their best to save him.”
Chris is also dad to Liam’s half-sister Amy Stoker, 23, and Liam, Ryan and Lewis’s sister Olivia Hall, eight.
The tragedy has also left Liam’s grandparents Ron, 79, and Maureen, 74, distraught.
Liam lived with mum Sarah Hall, 38.
His funeral will be held at Sunderland Crematorium, off Chester Road, at 1.30pm on Monday, September 12.
An online fund is being set up for people to make donations to cover the cost of the service, as well as help his loved ones.
In the meantime, cash donations can be dropped off to the offices of funeral director Tony Clarke in Southwick Road and Railway Terrace in South Hylton.
They must be in a sealed envelope marked with the donor’s name and telephone number.
A book will be set up for people to leave messages about Liam, with a Sunderland strip to be passed around for people to sign as a keepsake.