Rachel Kempley was watching TV on a warm Sunday evening last June when the phone rang.
She knew it wouldn’t be her son, Reece, because she’d spoken to him that morning.
Reece, 24, a talented football coach, was in Kavos, a resort on the Greek island of Corfu, on the last day of his first holiday abroad with friends.
‘He said he was going on a boat trip before flying home the next day,’ says Rachel, 49. The phonecall was from Reece’s friend, Luke.
‘He said Reece had had an accident and he didn’t know if he was alive or dead . . .’
Over a year later, it’s still agony for her to recall and she talks in broken sentences, through tears that won’t stop. For hours there was no news, then a doctor called from the hospital to tell Rachel to come as soon as she could.
‘I remember he said “paraplegic”, but I was in such deep shock, I couldn’t take anything in,’ she says. ‘All I wanted to know was: “Will Reece still be alive when I get to Greece?” Because as long as my boy was alive, there was hope.’
It is every parent’s worst nightmare. You do everything to keep your children safe, but knowing that one day you will have to let them go.
Reece was diagnosed with epilepsy three years ago and while Rachel worried constantly about him having a seizure, she knew he would never do anything reckless.
‘He’s always been such a thoughtful, caring boy. He has never brought any trouble to my door,’ his mother says. She finds it so difficult to listen to what happened that she has to leave the room while Reece tells the story.
‘I was enjoying my holiday with five friends, all good mates who have known each other for years,’ he says. ‘We spent the week swimming and playing football.’
On June 11, the day before they were due to fly home, some of the boys booked quad bikes.