Published: 13:00, 21 November 2012 |
Updated: 09:43, 10 January 2014
by Emma Grove
Tributes have been paid to a "caring and loving" teenager found dead on Minster beach.
The family of Lewis O'Neill-Smith, who had cerebral palsy, have spoken about how they believe he died in a tragic accident.
The 19-year-old, who lived with his grandparents David and Sandra O'Neill in Sunset Close, Eastchurch, moved to the Isle of Sheppey from London about 18 months ago and was a member of East Kent Mencap.
Mr O'Neill, 57, told how he had dropped off his grandson to catch the bus to go to a Mencap meeting at the De'Lacey Hall, in Sheerness, on the morning of Tuesday, November 6.
Lewis, pictured left, had not returned home as usual that evening and had left his mobile at home.
Although concerned, his grandparents assumed he was staying with his girlfriend.
When he had not come home on Wednesday morning, they contacted police who spent the day searching for him.
Lewis's body was found by a passer-by on the Thursday morning, near the Little Oyster. He had drowned.
"We think it might have been a tragic accident," said Mr O'Neill. "He was
"he was really family-orientated and happy-go-lucky. he trusted everyone and never saw bad in anyone..." – david o'neillhappy – there was nothing wrong with him."
He wonders if his grandson had missed the last bus and tried to make his own way home, getting stuck in the mud.
"We will wait for the inquest to get answers," he added. "The last thing he said to me was, 'I'll see you later granddad' and I reminded him to get his money out and he said 'alright my mate' and put his thumb up.
"He was really happy as he'd been with his girlfriend, who he met through Mencap, for about five months.
"Lew used to like to go to see his uncles, Ben and Sam O'Neill, at the weekend and watch a film and they would buy him a takeaway.
"He was really family-orientated and happy-go-lucky. He trusted everyone and never saw bad in anyone."
Lewis's mum Kelly O'Neill said her son had not long returned from a holiday to Cyprus with his dad Jay Smith, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
The 39-year-old, who called him Lewpops, added: "He was very loving – he had so much love to give.
"He was just a lovely boy and so caring – he cared about everyone, even people he didn't know.
"We are going to miss him deeply."
Mr O’Neill also wished to thank everyone who had supported the family since Lewis's death.
He praised the police, saying they had been wonderful, and also thanked the man who found his grandson's body as well as the person that discovered and handed in his wallet
Don't miss out, subscribe today. Keep up to date with our newsletters.
A guide for your future. For year 11 students in Kent and Medway. Click here for the e-edition.
Education, Training & Childcare is a special supplement published by KM Media Group four times a year. Click here for latest e-edition.
Get the latest food and drink news, recipes from some of the nation's top chefs plus updates from Kent's vineyards and breweries.
Search in your local area to find your perfect partner in Kent, with FreshStart Dating! PLUS, register for free!.
Find out what's going on in the garden, with Kent expert Lucy Hewett's weekly update.
Buy pictures that you've seen in a KM newspaper, or send in a picture and we will place it on our photo sales website so that you can purchase a super, unique gift.