Tributes paid to tragic Junior Heffernan after Severn Bridge Road Race accident
TRIBUTES have poured in following the death of an elite sportsman described as 'an enormous talent'.
As reported in yesterday's Herald former Kelly College pupil Junior Heffernan, 23, died on Sunday after his bike collided with a car during the 41st annual Severn Bridge Road Race in Gloucestershire.
A spokesman for Junior's new team, Herbalife LeisureLakesBikes.com, confirmed Junior died on the third of ten laps and that the race was immediately stopped.
The spokesman said: "He was a young man with an enormous talent and enthusiasm for bike racing.
"His out going personality and infectious nature meant that for the short time that his team mates knew him he was welcomed and well liked by all and the team were excited by the prospect of seeing him race.
"The managers and team members would like to pass on their condolences to the friends and family of Junior Heffernan at this difficult time."
Robin Brew, director of swimming at Kelly College, Tavistock added his voice to the tributes.
Junior had been a member of the college's swimming squad. Mr Brew said Junior "was a young man with an extraordinary gift and capacity for hard work."
He added: " Junior was extremely kind hearted and his willingness to be generous with both his time and support to others is a true testament to his wonderful character.
"His parents were a huge support and shared his love of performance sport.
"He excelled at Kelly in both his academic studies and in the sport of triathlon.
"He gained 9 A* grades at GCSE level and a year later competed at the Junior European Triathlon Championships.
"We will remember forever, Junior's steely determination and his wonderful personality; so many things to be proud of and so much to be thankful for, but so sad a life full of opportunity cut short."
Former Kelly College student and silver medal Olympic modern pentathlete Heather Fell said she recalled training next to the young cyclist.
She said: "I shared a swimming lane with Junior for a year or two when I was training for Beijing [Olympics in 2008].
"He was quite quiet. I think swimming wasn't necessarily his forte but he started doing triathlon and through that found cycling, which was clearly something he could excel at and he went from strength to strength."
Police have now reported that Junior was leading the race as he headed toward a left-hand bend, but his bike collided with a car heading in the opposite direction.
It is understood he suffered serious injuries to his head and chest and subsequently suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of his injuries.
A South Western Ambulance Service spokesman said a volunteer paramedic providing medical cover for the road race went to his aid along with a GP who was taking part in the event.
They carried out CPR until they were joined by critical care paramedics from Great Western Air Ambulance, who carried out more advance life support.
However, despite the efforts by all those involved Junior died at the scene.
A spokesman for British Cycling said it had launched its own investigation into the fatal crash and was also helping the police.
The spokesperson added: "Fortunately, these incidents are extremely rare and this fatality is the first in many, many years."
As a result of the fatal crash and as a mark of respect the launch of The Tour Series in Torquay, set to take place today has been postponed by organisers.