Tributes have been paid to a young football fan who died in a freak accident while watching a match – after part of an FA ‘Respect’ banner smashed into his head.
Oliver Croker, 12, was watching an amateur game with his family when some players collided with a banner that is placed on the sidelines at grass roots matches.
Part of the framework of the banner became impaled in the youngster’s head and he was airlifted to hospital.
He was transferred to a specialist brain injury unit and placed on a life support machine but tragically failed to pull through.
But today (Tues) his family revealed that in one final selfless act he donated his organs so that five other children could survive.
His mother Pippa Croker spoke of her pride for her son on a memorial page set up for him facebook.
She wrote: “We would very much like you all to feel so proud of Oliver this evening.
“Through organ donation he has given life to to five other children.
“He will live on in them. What very lucky boys and girls they are!!!
“Love you our beautiful gorgeous boy.”
The incident happened at a match between Bampton and home team Bradninch FC at their Kensham Park ground in Devon on Saturday (12/09).
Witnesses say the incident involved a banner promoting the FA’s ‘Respect’ campaign, which aims to stamp out unacceptable behaviour in football.
One said Olly was “speared” in the head by a stake that had been used to support the sign.
The man – who asked not to be named – said: “Two players crashed into the FA Respect banner that had been put up earlier that day for the youth football in the morning.
“Towards the end of the game in the afternoon, the players crashed into the fencing/barrier which loosened the stakes and pegs before one went into the lad’s head.
“It was horrific.”
Luke O’Hara, who was also at the game, wrote on facebook: “Two players ran into it and the spike flew up at him.”
The incident happened at around 3.30pm near the end of the game in the Devon & Exeter Football League.
Oliver was airlifted to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital before being transferred to a head injury unit at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, where he died overnight on Monday.
A statement from Bradninch FC read: “As many will have heard a freak accident took place at Kensham Park at the end of a football match between Bradninch and Bampton on Saturday 12th September.
“A hoop used as part of fencing became lodged in the head of a young lad from Bampton who had been watching the match.
“All at Bradninch are absolutely shocked and devastated by this tragic accident and our thoughts and heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Oliver.”
Devon Football Association said it could not comment on the circumstances of the incident while it was still under investigation.
But other players said the FA should now investigate the safety of the banners.
Andrew Winteridge wrote: “Perhaps the league should look into the use of these Respect barriers now as would hate this to happen at any other game.”
A police spokesman said: “Devon and Cornwall Police can confirm that a 12-year-old boy who sustained serious head injuries whilst spectating at a football match at Bradninch Football club on Saturday 12th September has died overnight.
“He was airlifted to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital following the incident before being transferred to Bristol Children’s Hospital where he later died.
“Our sympathy and thoughts are with the family.”
Oliver – who lived in Bampton, Devon, with his parents, twin brother Billy and his other brother Tom – was a pupil at Tiverton High School.
In a statement, the school said: “It is with great sadness that we hear of the death of Olly Croker in a freak accident at the weekend.
“In describing Olly, the first words that come to mind are that he was the life and soul of the party; a larger than life character, brimming with confidence, with an eagerness and enthusiasm for taking part in all aspects of school life.
“His youthful vibrancy and curiosity about life shaped his whole character.
“He was a very knowledgeable and sparky lad with his finger on the pulse of what was going on at school, in the local community and beyond.
“He was multi-talented and we had high hopes for his future. Olly was a keen sportsman and represented Tiverton High School at rugby and even played up an age group.
“Our thoughts and wishes are with Olly’s parents and brothers.”
Paul Morrison, chief executive of Devon FA, said he would not comment on the circumstances surrounding the incident until the police have carried out their enquires.
He said: “We have only just found out and it is a shock to all of us.
“Our thoughts are with the lad’s poor family – this is such a tragic accident.
“We were informed by the police that something had happened and that it was under investigation.
“Our thoughts and sympathies are with all family and the two teams there on the day.
“It is up to the police now to investigate and we will let them carry out their investigation and see what comes from there.
“I don’t know the full details of what happened so it would not be right to comment any further in the meantime.”