Tributes have poured in from the ‘devastated’ community of Burgess Hill following the tragic death of teenager Elido Vargas.
The 15-year-old’s body was found in the churchyard at St John’s Church on Thursday by a member of the public. He was reported missing two days before.
Sussex Police said his death was not being treated as suspicious and that the coroner had been informed.
The church has seen around 1,000 visitors who have turned out to show their compassion and support, leaving flowers and cards.
Father Kevin O’Brien, vicar at the church, told the Middy: “Over the past three days we have had around 1,000 visitors to church and the same number of candles lit.
“Many hundreds of young people have visited, especially from Burgess Hill Academy, and we have been impressed at how respectful they have been, how mutually supportive and caring they have been to one another and the family – they have been a credit to Burgess Hill Academy.
“Clearly the community is deeply affected by the tragic loss of Elido’s life and they continue to show their compassion and support.
“From all at St John’s our fervent prayers are for Elido and for his family, trusting that he is now at peace, embraced with eternal and unerring care.
“We stand ready to help Elido’s family in any way we can, and to offer support to the close-knit community.
“They are constantly in our thoughts and prayers. And can we also ask everyone to respect their privacy at this hugely difficult time.”
A book of remembrance is available at the church for people to sign. Heartfelt messages in cards have also been left.
One reads: “I hope you are flying right now and smiling in a better place.” Another says: “You were an amazing boy always there for everyone, fly high bro.”
A card from Burgess Hill Academy, where Elido was a pupil, says Elido was ‘always the one to bring a smile to your face’.
Principal Jon Francies added: “The academy and the University of Brighton Academies Trust are shocked and saddened to hear of Elido’s death. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Many messages from residents have been left on the Middy’s Facebook page. Hayley Davey said the news was ‘heartbreaking’.
Pauline Gear said the news was ‘very sad’ and added: “Such a young life, my thoughts are with the family and all his friends.”
Pru Moore, leader of Burgess Hill Town Council, told the Middy that the community was ‘devastated’.
She said: “As leader of the town the community is devastated that such a tragic incident has occured in our town and our thoughts are with everyone who is involved and whose lives are being devastated by this tragedy.
“We will know how this tragedy emerged in due course, when the professionals and the police have completed their enquiries.”
Councillor Anne Jones said the news was ‘heartbreaking’: “It is very hard for our young people today and we need them to know there will always be someone there for them.”
Other organisations have shared their condolences, including the Burgess Hill Labour Party: “Words cannot adequately express how sad we feel at the loss of this young member of our community. Our thoughts are with his parents and friends.”
The Burgess Hill Conservatives also said on Facebook: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the death. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
In the wake of Elido’s tragic death a group of family friends have set up a crowdfunding page to pay for funeral costs, which has so far raised over £3,000.
Nina Herd said: “The loss of Elido Jnr is something the Vargas family is grappling to come to terms with and will continue to do so in the days, months and years to come.
“His loss through suicide is something his parents Eiren and Elido never want any other family to endure.
“And though this is a time where finances are the last thing they want to think about, they are now facing the costs of his funeral on top of running their home and looking after Elido’s three younger brothers.
“Added to that, because Elido Jnr was born and lived in the Dominican Republic until he was ten, Eiren and Elido would like to have a funeral service and memorial for him there.”
People can donate by visiting www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rememberingelido.
For emotional support, people can contact the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website.