A teenager has died after he was blasted in the head by a friend while out shooting.

Alex Bailey died from his terrible injuries after he was hit while out hunting pigeons with two friends at Itford Farm in Southease, near Lewes.

The men had been shooting at birds from a hide when the 18-year-old was accidentally shot.

The friends have not been named but they were all experienced shooters who held current shotgun licences, Alex's family said.

Farmer Martin Brickell said he had not realised the group were on his land until after the accident happened.

He said: "I was on the other side of the valley and saw the police helicopter up and heard the ambulances. I thought they were looking for someone who had run away at first.

"We allow the boys to go shooting on the land as they are friends of one of my workers.

"The corn had just been cut last week so the conditions were good for shooting pigeons.

"It's a tragic accident, a very sad thing to have happened. All our thoughts go to the family."

Alex was a popular figure in Kingston, near Lewes, where he had lived with his parents and 15-year-old brother John since he was a young boy.

A keen sportsman, he had been the anchor for the winning side in the village tug-of-war contest at this year's summer fete. He had played in a stoolball match on St Pancras Green a couple of weeks ago, and been beaten by the vicar - something he accepted in his characteristically good-natured way.

His family described him as a true countryman who loved shooting, fishing and breeding poultry and peacocks in the grounds of the family home in Church Lane.

Friends have also created a tribute website on the Bebo networking site in memory of the young man they called "Bailey".

In a joint statement friends Craig Chatwin, Harry Wade and Luke Brown said: "Alex was a larger-than-life character. He thoroughly enjoyed himself whatever he was doing and there was never a dull moment when Bailey was around.

"He always knew how to make everyone laugh and was infamous for his typical quirky comments.

"He loved rural life and was an active participant in all village events.

"He died in a shocking and tragic accident doing something he loved. Everyone who knew him has been devastated by his sudden death. He'll be greatly missed by his friends."

Police questioned the two friends with Alex after the accident last Wednesday afternoon but are treating the incident as a tragic accident.

Alex attended Iford and Kingston Primary School, Priory School in Lewes and was planning to study business at South Downs College.

Pauline Murray, the assistant headteacher at Priory, said Alex had always been tall even when he joined the school.

He had organised sports teams and given advice to younger pupils having bullying problems.

Mrs Murray said: "At school we all thought of Alex as a gentle giant.

"An excellent rugby player, Alex was committed to the school team with many successful appearances.

"He will be remembered by all staff with great affection.

"He was one of those pupils who was popular with everyone, with his classmates and the teachers.

"He had a wicked sense of humour. He was cheeky but he always knew where the line was and he never crossed it. We're all devastated by what has happened."

Leave your tributes to Alex in our Book of Condolence.