A grieving mum whose teenage son died in a car crash before Christmas has thanked the community for their messages of support.
Rebecca Gamble's 18-year-old son Tom died in hospital hours after the car in which he was a passenger crashed into a ditch in Coventry on December 20.
Police are currently investigating the cause of the collision, LeicestershireLive reports.
Only a few months earlier, Tom had embarked on his dream of a career with the RAF.
Rebecca said her family had been overwhelmed by messages of support from his commanding officers and colleagues as well as his friends and former teachers.
Many well-wishers left their memories of Tom on a fundraising page for the air ambulance service – including the team who tended to the injured teenager at the scene and went with him to hospital in Coventry.
The family's appeal has raised more than £8,000.
"We did a Just Giving page and the money people have donated is amazing, but also the messages that people have posted are helping me through this," Rebecca, 47, said.
"Nothing will ever bring him back, but those messages have definitely shown me the number of people who loved him."
Tom, who achieved the rank of Senior Aircraftman (SAC), was stationed at RAF Benson, in Oxfordshire, in September and had quickly qualified as a military driver.
Rebecca said: "His dad is an ex-Royal marine, so Tom was always going into the forces.
"He'd found his niche in life and had so much to look forward to. He'd only been at RAF Benson for a few months, but the friendships he'd made were just so real and so close.
"It's not just a saying, they really are a family. The RAF has been so supportive, they are absolutely amazing.
"He'd finished his training and was applying for his first overseas posting, which would have been the Falklands and his dream was to also to go to Cyprus."
She recalled the horrible evening Leicestershire Police officers arrived at her home while she and her partner were watching television.
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"The police turned up at ten past six and asked if they could come into the house," she said.
"At first I thought that maybe Tom was in some kind of trouble, although that didn't seem likely at all.
"He was supposed to be coming home on the Friday, but we were having to isolate, so I'd said to him 'how about you don't come home for a few days?'
"He said he'd stay at the base on the Friday and then go to stay with his girlfriend on the Saturday.
"'The officers said he'd been in a crash and had life-threatening injuries."
She travelled to the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire to be by his side and was with him when he died at 1am on December 21.
Rebecca said: "We did a balloon release at Thomas Estley on Tom's birthday, the 10th of January. We did it at the time he was born, 2.45pm. It was a way of letting him go.
"The college did a lovely memorial book for him and they are going to plant a tree."
It released a tribute to Tom, saying: "We remember Tom as full of life, full of laughter, full of energy, full of brightness, full of loyalty and full of fun.
"He had achieved his dream of joining the Royal Air Force, whose motto is 'Per Ardua Ad Astra', 'Through adversity to the stars'.
"Tom shone as brightly as a star himself and we will always remember him. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends."
His commanding officers at RAF Benson also spoke highly of the young prospect.
Group Captain Nick Paton, the RAF Benson Station Commander, said: "He showed great promise and it is tragic that he never got the chance to reach his full potential.
"Our thoughts are with Tom's family, friends and colleagues as this incredibly difficult time."
Warrant Officer Paul Royer, the Military Transport Officer at the base added: "Tom was at the start of his career and was always keen to learn, both about the vehicle fleet and the Royal Air Force.
"He was quiet, thoughtful and popular with the team, always bringing a smile to everyone. I will miss our chats about growing up in Leicestershire and I know the team will miss him greatly."
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