THE parents of a former Petroc college student have paid a moving tribute to their son who died unexpectedly last week.
Ben Foulds, 20, died last Tuesday despite being fit and well at a family meal the night before.
Ben was well-known in North Devon for his positive attitude despite being left paraplegic after a terrible cycling accident on some railings in 2010.
His father, Andy Foulds, said everything had been fine on Monday evening and Ben had even posted a photo on Facebook that night when he got home.
"He came round to ours for tea," Andy said.
"He left at about 9pm and was quite happy and was not feeling unwell at all. Everything was great.
"He had not woken up in the morning because the taxi could not get through to him.
"I went round in the afternoon because he had a kitten which I was going to feed.
"It looked like he had been asleep. I thought he was just being lazy."
His mum Claire said: "I just could not believe it. He had not felt ill or anything. I just couldn't comprehend what had happened.
"I just see him with his curly hair and his cheeky little grin on his face. It just does not seem fair at all.
"He was someone who would always cheer you up and bring a smile into the room. If people had problems they would have a chat with him and he would make them feel better."
Ben had recently moved away from North Devon after recovering from a serious cycling accident which left him paraplegic two years ago.
He had been cycling down Sticklepath Hill in Barnstaple when his wheels slipped on wet leaves.
He collided with the railing and fell head first down a 15ft drop on to the road below. But despite being left wheelchair-bound, his parents are adamant that Ben did not want pity and was keen to get on with his life the best he could.
His mum said: "He was no shrinking violet. He wanted to get out there and put his stamp on the world."
Andy added that Ben had recently moved into a specially adapted flat in Daventry in Northamptonshire and was also looking to take his driving test.
"He had just started college this term and he was doing art and design," he said. "He had met some friends there and was getting on all right. He had ordered some furniture for his flat."
Ben was born in Grantham in Lincolnshire where his father was based in the RAF before moving to North Devon with his parents when he was three years old.
He attended Southmead Primary School before moving on to Braunton Comprehensive School and later Petroc, where he studied psychology and critical thinking, which his mum said he loved.
"He was bright but he didn't sell himself too much," she added. "He used to play about a bit which always got him in trouble.
"He had a lot of brain but he didn't like to use it too much. He did like doing his art and drawing. That was the thing. He would be doing little doodles when he should be doing work.
"He was always trying to be happy. He did get bullied a bit being ginger. People seemed to take it out on ginger people but he got around that and threw it back at them in a way."
He has an older sister, Emma, 22, who has recently moved away to study public and community health at university.
His grandparents also live away from North Devon but his mum said he would often ring to update them on what he was up to.
"He was not too good at ringing," said Claire. "But once you are on the phone to him he would talk away 19 to the dozen."
Claire said that although Ben had just started an art and design course at Banbury College he had other ideas for a career path.
"Before the accident he was thinking about the police force which is not arty at all," she said. "But I don't see how it would have been possible."
She added that Ben's strength of character helped to pull through following his accident.
"It was hard. His dad and I got divorced but we just pulled together. We came together again and we supported each other.
"He joined a gym up in Daventry. He needed to be strong so he could lift himself in and out of his wheelchair. He didn't want to rely on others.
"He got through it all and came to terms with it. He wanted to 'pimp his ride.' I found it hard to see him go to Daventry, but he had his dad up there who helped him a lot.
"He really got to grips with it all."
Claire said that during his recovery in Plymouth he made some friends including one who turned up at the hospital driving a car despite being disabled, which made Ben realise all the things he could still do.
After the accident Ben was involved in a multi-million pound legal battle to claim compensation from North Devon Council because the railings were not safe enough.
His mum said: "If a railing is there it is there for a purpose. It is not supposed to crumble when people knock into it."
After Ben's death his dad was overwhelmed by the amount of messages left on both Ben's personal Facebook page and his Get Well page which was set up after his accident.
Claire said that one of Ben's friends was in Australia when he died but has flown back especially for his funeral.
"Ben was hoping to come down in October or November and see them all and have a catch up with people. He did not want to lose his links with North Devon."
A fundraising page set up in Ben's memory on Monday had already raised nearly £500 by the following day. To donate in Ben's memory visit www.just giving.com/Emma-foulds1