The family of the 17-year-old boy who died following a tragic fire in Lincoln just before Christmas have released a touching tribute to the teenager.
As previously reported, Thomas Taylor died in the fire at a magic shop and flat on De Wint Avenue on December 21, which destroyed the property.
The fire is being treated by Lincolnshire Police as accidental, with full details of the cause to be dealt with at an inquest later this year.
Tributes have already been paid by local residents and the headteacher of The Priory Witham Academy, the school which Tom attended.
Now Tom’s mum Helen, step-dad Max, and twin brother Jack have released their own tribute.
They said: “Tom was just such an amazing, kind, generous, humorous young man. He was such fun and was happiest when he was making others happy, and he always succeeded in doing that.
“He would do something daft and silly to make you smile but wasn’t a clown and was never reckless, he just knew how to make people laugh. He was constantly upbeat, cheerful and happy.
“Tom had hearing problems and wore a hearing aid to help him each day but he just took it in his stride. He said that, of course, he’d prefer not to have to wear an aid but it wasn’t an issue and would say that others were worse off so he didn’t let it get in his way.
“When he was young he wanted to be a pilot but found out that because of his hearing problems he couldn’t so just said ‘okay, what’s next instead’? He had then wanted to be a chiropractor after visiting one himself and seeing the good they could do.
“Tom would do anything for anyone and what he wanted to do in the future as a career really reflected that – it was all about doing things for others and trying to make them happy.
“It is telling that he could get along with anyone of any age or background, be it young or old, he never judged. He was such a modest, interested and engaging young man.
“People always had time for him and that must be because he had time for them.
“Tom and Jack were black belts in Taekwondo and they’re both incredibly proud of that, as we are of them. They have competed against each other in the past and it’s been difficult to know who to cheer on but they both were so pleased and proud of the other that it was never an issue.
“In 2013 they competed in the World Championships in Coventry and were aiming for the same competition in Birmingham this coming year (2016).
“Tom and Jack were extremely bonded, not just because they were twins but because they were best friends. They had their own individual personalities but also just loved spending time together – if one went to the shop, the other would follow, they walked to school together, they spent their free time together. Jack describes Tom as the best brother anyone could wish for.
“Tom was an incredible saxophonist after starting to play when he was at junior school.
“He had just passed a recent grade with absolute distinction and enjoyed spending some time busking at the recent Christmas Market in Lincoln. Tom and us all smiled as people danced in front of him as he played his Christmas repertoire including Fairytale of New York and All I Want For Christmas.
“He was talented in so many ways and interested in so many things – he was a superb student, he was athletic, musical, and a valued and treasured member of this family.
“He was also a wonderful self-dedicated office vacuumer at the family business!
“Tom had incredibly wide and varied interests. In 2014 he won a trip to Space Camp in Alabama, USA, where he participated in some once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
“Tom got to live like an astronaut for a few days and experienced zero gravity, took part in missions, and ate and drank like those living in space might.
“When he got home he told us all his tales with such enthusiasm and excitement but was also so aware that others had not been able to experience this amazing trip that he didn’t talk about it all the time. Tom was incredibly sensitive and empathetic towards others.”
“We are absolutely overwhelmed by the response of our local community and the messages people have been sending us. There are so many people we want to thank and we are completely amazed at the goodness and kindness that people have shown us – not only at the time of the fire but also in the days following.
“Even before emergency services could arrive a number of people risked their own lives by running back into the building as it was on fire to try and help and were trying to see if we were alright. We don’t know who they are but want to thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
“The community has offered us so many messages of sympathy, help, and support in the days since Tom’s death and we’ve been totally overwhelmed.
“We’re so very grateful to you all, it really is offering us some comfort during the most difficult time of our lives.
“We also don’t know how to say thank you for the colossal fundraising that has been going on, we’re amazed at the generosity of people, especially at Christmas time when money can be tight. Thank you.
“We don’t know yet what we will put that money towards but we want it to be a legacy to Tom, something that can make people happy and continues his good work.
“As well as people we don’t know, family and friends have been a constant help and support – thank you so much to you all. Also Anita and Dan from the Red Cross have helped us every step of the way and continue to do so during this gruelling journey; Becky and Karl who set up the fundraising page have been a huge help and we are so very grateful to you.
“A number of local businesses and organisations have offered us help and support – Tesco, Asda, DJ Roadshow, and the Co-op. They have offered us everything from shoes to wear to food to eat, we perhaps wouldn’t have thought of those practical things in a time of such grief and sorrow. Thank you so very much.
“We are so incredibly proud of Tom and so acutely aware of the wonderful, modest young man we were blessed to have in our lives.
“He touched so many people, more than we ever realised, and had the best qualities that we all wish we could possess.
“We told him all the time how unique and special he was and we are so grateful that he knew how much we loved him.
“We are still in the process of planning Tom’s funeral but we are absolutely adamant that we want it to be a celebration of his life.
“We want anyone who knew Tom or whose lives were touched by him to attend, details will follow shortly.
“He spent his days happy and would want people to be as happy as possible at his funeral.
“We mourn the loss of the brother and son we love so much but celebrate and rejoice the 17 years we were lucky enough to have with him.
“We miss him every day but try to remember him with the smiles and laughter that he brought to our lives on a daily basis.
“We love you and miss you, Tom, but we remember you with such love, gratitude, and with hearts full of happiness.”