Tributes have been paid to a teenage cyclist who died after flipping over the front of his handlebars.

Tom Carter, 16, died in hospital after being treated for severe brain damage for four months after the accident in January.

He had been on a cross country ride on the South Downs when he hit a rock and fell, hitting his head.

He was not wearing a helmet at the time.

Ramblers raised the alarm and paramedics took Tom to Eastbourne District General Hospital (EDGH). He was later transferred Hurstwood Park Neurological Centre in Haywards Heath.

Surgeons operated on his brain and were forced to remove a part of it because of a blood clot.

The Seaford Head Community College student was then transferred back to the EDGH but died earlier this month following a chest infection.

His mother, Angela Carter, 44, of North Way, Seaford, said her son was a talented individual, full of fun and obsessed with football - to the extent his mother asked friends and family to wear Manchester United shirts to his funeral.

She said Tom, who had been receiving two physiotherapy sessions a day, had started to open his eyes and show improvement but he could not survive with just the front part of his brain.

Almost 200 of his friends have joined a group on social networking site Bebo in his memory.

One wrote: "There are no words to fill the Tom-shaped hole that is left, yet Tom can live on. He lives on in all the photos, all the memories, all the happy times that I spent with him. There's a little part of Tom inside every one of us who knew him. We can take comfort in the thought that he is at peace now, in no more pain, suffering no more."

Kyra Rose said: "Tom, you were the best boyfriend a girl could ask for. I love you."

Another friend, Manny, wrote: "You were one of the nicest people anyone could possibly ever meet. You never had a bad word to say against anyone and always put on a brave face to support those around you.

"You will be sorely missed by us all and I hope that wherever you are you have that grin on your face."

Staff and pupils at the college will build a lasting memorial to Tom in the playground at the Arundel Road site.

Head of year Leigh Harris said Tom was a fantastic musician and actor who had aspirations of teaching history.

She said: "He was extremely popular and highly talented.

He was on course to receive a host of grade A GCSEs this summer.

"He was such a nice boy and everyone loved him. In the common room we have a wall for Tom that is absolutely covered with people's feelings and thoughts."

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: "It's very sad when somebody is out and about enjoying themselves and what should be a fun afternoon ends in tragedy.

"But we do recommend people wear the appropriate safety gear for the activity they are undertaking. For cycling that includes helmets, which help reduce the severity of head injuries."

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