TEENAGER Ben Quartermaine was a flamboyant and energetic youngster.

An outgoing and independent boy who loved to be at the centre of attention, the 15-year-old was full of mischief.

His family loved him to pieces and miss him terribly.

Ben was a part of a family of motorcycle enthusiasts and his love of bikes flourished throughout his childhood.

His mother Vicky Knight, 43, recalls one phone call from one of Ben’s close friends.

“I know he wasn’t perfect,” she smiles.

“He could be a pain in the butt - he really could be. But on the whole he was a good boy.

“Except when he was trying to take my motorbike. He did take it out one point.

“I got a phone call from one of his mates. He said ‘Just to let you know, Ben’s turned up at mine on your motorbike.’”

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Cheeky - Ben was an avid fan of motorcycles

On the cusp of his 16th birthday, the Clacton Coastal Academy student was looking ahead to his future.

Ben had always wanted to be a pilot but had been considering joining the Army.

His family had spotted a bright pink scooter and joked about buying it for him.

“We’d seen it on Facebook, as a joke said to him ‘We found you a bike’,” said Vicky.

“We were mucking about at the time it was just a joke, but he said ‘I’ll have that.’

"We’d bought it for him and he was going to get it on his birthday.”

But the youngster’s fizzing energy and infectious humour were all at once extinguished.

Ben drowned after struggling in the waters near Clacton Pier, on July 26 last year.

Together with close friend Albert Caller, Ben had paddled out into the sea on a scorching and busy afternoon.

Unable to swim, Ben had always been told to never let the water go above his waist.

“He knew he couldn’t go above his waist and he never did,” said Vicky.

“They had walked out from the beach. From what Albert said, they reached the helter skelter and realised how far out they’d walked. It was apparently still below their hips.

“They turned round to come back in and that’s when the current took them.

“People think if the sea’s calm they’re safe. If the sea’s calm that’s the worst time to go in.”

Pier staff and horrified onlookers watched as the two boys struggled.

One member of staff reached Albert with a lifebuoy but Ben disappeared beneath the waters.

Lifeboat volunteers arrived and plucked Albert from the water and a desperate search effort followed.

Officers with Essex Police, the coastguard, RNLI and volunteers scoured the beaches and the waters.

Vicky already knew in her heart her youngest son had died.

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Loved - Ben pictured with mum Vicky

The mother-of-two, who works as a shop assistant, said: “I’d just finished work - it was the first day of closing up on my own.

“I’d got on my bike and turned it on. But I turned it off as I had a horrible feeling something was wrong. It was like I had forgotten something, I felt something was off.

“When I got home there was a police car there. He said ‘Are you Ben’s mum.

“I said ‘Yeah, what’s he done.’ He could be as all teenagers can be, he could get caught up in things.

“When I heard what had happened it seemed like a dream. It was like it wasn’t real, like it wasn’t happening. It took a long while for it to actually sink in.

“When we got to the pier we were phoning people up, asking ‘Have you seen Ben?’

“The police were saying maybe he’d come out the water, seen all trouble and was hiding. But no, he wouldn’t do that.

“They even went to the house to look for him there. But he would have made sure Albert was all right.

“They were always together. He was a couple of years younger than Ben, but they were always together. If Ben wasn’t at home he was there. I know he wouldn’t have left Albert. He would have stayed and made sure he was alright.”

Ben’s body was discovered on July 28, after a near two day search.

“It was the worst day of my life,” said Vicky.

“Although I knew in my heart he died when I had that feeling while getting on my bike, it still didn’t make me feel better when I heard.

“I knew that’s when he died. It was hard but in a way I was glad he was found then we could deal with that rather than not knowing.

“It’s gone so quick and it is just a case of taking one day at a time.

“You get to a point when you just put on a face when you’re out and try to be strong when you’re around people.”

The sense of grief felt by Vicky and her partner of three years Colin Gentry, 36, as well as Ben’s elder brother Josh, 19, has not faded.

Vicky and Colin will marry in Sudbury in June.

In typical fashion, Ben had caused a stir by insisting he be allowed to attend as a bridesmaid.

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Joker - Ben was full of mischief and energy

“He’d picked his dress out and everything,” said Vicky.

“He wanted to be involved and that’s Ben’s way of being involved.

“He was enthusiastic about it, it was like: ‘Ben if you want to be a bridesmaid, you be a bridesmaid.’

“He was happy we were getting married which is why we’ve stuck with it and carried on.

“I think at one point Ben turned round to Colin and said ‘Well, I’m not calling you dad yet.’

“I asked why and he said ‘Well you’re not married. When you’re married - then I will’.

“So that was him saying yes I approve. I know he was happy and wanted to be there.”

  • A candle-lighting ceremony will be led by Ben’s family on Saturday, July 27, starting at the Royal Hotel, in Marine Parade East, Clacton, and continuing to the pier at 11pm

The Ben Quartermaine Remembrance Day will take place on Sunday, July 28, and includes a custom bike show, a charity football match and live performances of some of Ben’s favourite songs.

It will run at Clacton FC’s ground, in Rush Green Road, from 11am until 2.45pm.

For more information, visit essexhands.uk.