Hundreds gather for emotional football match in memory of tragic Pulham crash teenagers
- Credit: Archant
They took to the football pitch not to contest fierce rivalries, but out of a sense of duty to three friends whose tragic deaths had rocked their community.
The sad deaths earlier this year of Kyle Warren, Billy Hines and Dominic O'Neill led to an outpouring of community tributes, with hundreds of people attending their funerals and organising road runs and lantern parades in their honour.
MORE: 'Honest, open, kind-hearted and generous' - tributes paid to Dominic O'NeillMORE: 'Such a beautiful soul' - tributes to Billy HinesMORE: 'Caring and generous' - mum's tribute to Kyle WarrenThe trio had been travelling in a black Ford Ka when it came off the road and hit a tree in Tivetshall Road, Pulham Market.
And to show they would never be forgotten, Archbishop Sancroft High School (ASHS) in Harleston and Hartismere High School in Eye - the schools the two boys attended - held a football match on Thursday, September 28 in their memories.
A game between ASHS and Hartismere is often described as a 'grudge match' with plenty of rivalry.
But Rob Connelly, deputy headteacher at ASHS, said the event - which began with a minute's silence and minute's applause for the three boys - 'goes beyond a game of football'.
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Ahead of the match at Diss Town Football Club's Brewers Green Lane ground, where Billy played many games as a youngster, Mr Connelly added: 'This is an opportunity to get friends, family and the wider community together to remember the boys lives.
'It's reinforced what an incredible community there is in South Norfolk.'
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Billy's father Jason Hines said the turnout 'says everything about what they meant to everyone', while Kyle's mother Helen Orford said: 'It's nice to know people are still thinking about them.
'It's nice the two schools are coming together after six months. I don't think they'll ever be forgotten - they are three people who it is quite hard to forget.'
Dominic's mother Davina O'Neill said: 'It's quite emotional being here. It's good that everyone has come together.
'I know Dom will definitely be looking down saying: 'Get in there!''
Mason Heasley, 19, of Pulham Market, who played upfront for ASHS, said: 'Dom was our best friend and we knew Kyle and Billy well. It was our duty to play for them.
'We were shocked when we heard about it. You hear stories like that happening - you never think it will happen to you.
'All three of them loved cars, going out and having fun. They just wanted to laugh all the time.'
ASHS headteacher Richard Cranmer added: 'We as a school community were shocked in April and did our best to support the boys' friends following the accident.
'We felt it was timely to come together where the young people were the focus.
'There is a great turnout here because they want to be here. Many of the players in the two teams will be friends of the boys.'
He added that there remained a 'strong sense of camaraderie', similar to the boys' funerals.
Harleston vicar the Rev Nigel Tuffnell said: 'What better way to celebrate and remember them.
'There are so many things we do to remember someone that are quite old-fashioned for the younger generation.
'This is something that their friends love and is exactly right for them.'
MORE: Young people praised for their 'amazing' support to the families of Pulham tragedy teenagersMr Connelly added: 'It's something ourselves and Hartismere discussed prior to the end of the summer term.
'We felt it was a way the two schools could come together and treat it as an opportunity to bring all the families and community together, as well as all of the friends who only really had to spend time together as a group at the funeral.
MORE: Keep supporting families of Pulham tragedy teenagers, community urged'It is about recognising the contribution the boys made to all our communities.
'We want to use it as an opportunity to celebrate the lives of the three boys in a way they would've wanted, because they all had a passion for football and the groups of friends linked to the boys are very keen footballers.
Mr Connelly said the tragedy had continued to have a profound effect on the ASHS community in the weeks and months after the event.
'It's something we've discussed in whole school assembly in September in terms of how the community does refer to our school as the Archbishop Sancroft family,' he said.
'Every single person contributes to that.
'We drew strength from the way the members of our community responded in April. We responded in the only way we saw we could, which was a humane way.
'It reinforced to us that we have an incredible community - and that's been reflected by the way in which people have conducted themselves in response.'