Goodbye our shining star

'Bubbly': Melissa Smith
'Bubbly': Melissa Smith

Hundreds of people have paid tribute to a teenager who died of a suspected heart attack while playing football.

Within hours of 15-year-old Melissa Smith’s death, more than 3,000 people made tributes on social media to the “bubbly” teenager, who died while playing for Cadley FC on Sunday morning.

The former Penwortham Girls High School pupil was given CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) when she collapsed on the Greenside playing fields, Euxton, just before half-time. A defibrillator was also used but Melissa was pronounced dead on arrival at Royal Preston Hospital.

Tributes have flooded in from around the country for the popular teenager, described as a ‘beautiful and talented’ footballer.

Karen Pomeroy, headteacher at Penwortham Girls High School, said the school had been left devastated. She said: “We are heartbroken to have lost such an enthusiastic and warm-hearted girl.

“Melissa was so bubbly, so full of life, and she will be greatly missed by the entire school community.

“She was a shining star on stage, known for her wit and valued for her contribution to the wider life of the school.

“Melissa went out of her way to care for others and we will all feel her loss deeply.

“We know how much she will be missed by her many friends, and we will make sure we look after all our girls at this very sad time.

“Our thoughts are also with Melissa’s family and we have already been in touch with them to offer our sincere condolences.”

Among the messages of condolence were tributes from friends, family and members of the footballing community.

Lauren West wrote: “RIP my beautiful cousin,” while Sophie Cherry’s tribute read: “Can’t believe you’ve gone, your had a whole life ahead of you! You was so beautiful and talented its untrue! Shine bright up there princess! I love you! Gone but never forgotten, rest in paradise.”

Anne Topping-Mawson wrote: “As a mum of children who play football and the wife/assistant of a man who manages a junior team I just wanted to say that I am so, so very sorry to you and all your family and friends left behind. Rest in Peace sweet angel love and prayers from Myself, John and all the players and family of the Sir Tom Finney Jnr u9 Whites xxx.”

Steve Flynn, chairman of Cadley FC, said Melissa was a “lively and energetic” youngster who was well-loved at the club.

He said: “Everyone at the club is deeply saddened, it is a big shock.

“All of teams have been informed and we have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support we have received from other teams in the league.

He continued: “She was really conscientious and thoughtful – so much so that she rang the team manager when she was on her way to say she was running late.

“We are just all in shock and can’t imagine what her family must be going through.”

Melissa, had played for Cadley FC for five years, joining the team to play for the under-11 squad.

The chairman of Euxton Girls, the team Cadley FC were playing at the time of Melissa’s collapse, said their sympathies went out to the team and her family.

Dennis Winn said: “We’re absolutely devastated. We only bought the defibrillator this year and never expected to have to need it but it was all in vain.”

The game was immediately abandoned as were the other games due to take place at Greenside on Sunday.

Euxton under-16 coach Mick Walsh said everyone was in a state of shock.

He said: “It happened just before half-time, there was nobody around Melissa at the time but she suddenly fell to the ground between the halfway line and the penalty box.

“There were a lot of parents watching and we realised immediately how seriously it was.

“The ambulance was there in less than five minutes but it seemed like a lifetime.

“I’ve been involved in football for 40 years and nothing like this has happened before – and I hope it never happens again.”

Steve Flynn said that, as a mark of respect to Melissa, all Cadley FC games across the league are to be postponed this coming Saturday and Sunday.

Lancashire Police said Melissa’s death was not being treated as suspicious and a post-mortem examination will be carried out to established the exact cause of death.

To see some of the thousands of tributes to Melissa, visit Tributes paid to teenager Melissa Smith