The family of a popular Ben Rhydding teenager who “had his whole life to live for” have told of their hope that his sudden death from a suspected ecstasy overdose will be a warning to others.
The parents and brothers of Joe Preston, a former Ilkley Grammar School pupil, described the 17-year-old as a loyal friend, who was about to take his driving test and was passionate about becoming a joiner – but said he paid the ultimate price for trying drugs.
Joe’s father Ed Preston said drugs did not discriminate and his son’s death, on Sunday morning, showed that such a tragedy could happen to anyone.
“Joe had his whole life ahead of him and was lucky in that he would have had the support to fulfil his ambitions, but all that’s gone now,” said Mr Preston.
“Joe’s gone now, we can’t bring him back. I just hope it’s a lesson for his friends.”
Mr Preston, 54, said his youngest son was not a habitual drug user and to assume he was an addict would be wrong, but he had tried them on a few occasions.
“Lots of kids do it and he was just unlucky. He made a mistake and he’s paid for it,” he added.
“We talked to Joe, but there’s only so much you can say and that they’ll listen to. They’ll more likely listen to their friends, but nobody made Joe take it – it was his choice and he’s paid the price.”
Joe died at Bradford Royal Infirmary after he collapsed at a friend’s house in Shipley.
A group had been celebrating an 18th birthday on Saturday night at Canal Mills, in Armley, Leeds, and afterwards went to the house in Bank Crest.
Panicked friends called 999 and an operator instructed one of them how to perform CPR while waiting for paramedics.
The Preston family was called at about 9am on Sunday by hospital staff.
“They just said we had to get there as quickly as we could, but to drive safely,” said Mr Preston. “By the time we got there, he was already dead.”
Mother Viv Preston said: “Joe thought he knew what he was doing. His friends thought he was okay and had been fine, and he wasn’t. People just think they’re invincible.”
She added: “It’s just all over now. Being from a smallish community, it’s not like living in a big city where you just don’t know people. Everybody should be aware of it. For kids that live in this area it should make a massive impact on them.”
Joe, a former pupil at Ben Rhydding Primary School, was a second year student in carpentry and joinery at Craven College. It was a course he loved and one he hoped would lead to a career.
Mrs Preston said: “He was doing really well. It was all coming together. He seemed happy.”
His father, a design engineer, said Joe was enthusiastic about joinery and would scour catalogues studying which tools to buy.
“The last 18 months or so since he finished school, he’d just started to grow up and make plans,” Mr said Preston.
“He had a real talent,” added Mrs Preston, 50.
“It was something he wanted to do. He got excited about it,” said Mr Preston, who in December started setting up a workshop with his son.
Craven College principal Robert Bellfield said Joe was “a very dedicated student” heading towards a successful career.
“He was well-liked and will be greatly missed by his fellow students,” he added.
Ilkley Grammar School head teacher Gillian James remembered Joe as a quiet, but popular student.
“It is very sad and tragic,” she said.
“So many people have been touched by Joe, and will be affected by his death. It is a terrible waste of such a young life.”
Joe lived in Wheatley Lane, Ben Rhydding, with his parents and brothers Ollie, 19, and James, 21, who said he was a devoted friend.
Mrs Preston said: “His friends were everything to him. He was a really loyal, caring friend – he’d put his friends first all the time.”
Joe enjoyed listening to music and would often surprise his mother by singing 80s songs, out of tune, in the kitchen.
“I’d say ‘where’ve you got that from’ and he’d say he’d just heard it. He was tone deaf, he couldn’t sing for toffee! I never knew where that saying came from, until I heard Joe,” Mrs Preston said fondly.
Mrs Preston said stories about teenagers dying after taking drugs could easily wash over people.
“But this is a small community and the people he knows will likely take more notice. If it means they think or stop and not take drugs, that will be a positive thing,” she said.
“If people can just stop and try to imagine what we’re going through now – a kid won’t want their parents to go through what we’re going through.
“The message is simple – just think.”
l Police said a post-mortem examination on Tuesday proved to be inconclusive and further tests will now be carried out to establish the cause of death.
Two 18-year-old men, who were arrested on suspicion of supplying controlled drugs, have been released on bail. A spokesman said: “Inquiries into this incident are ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
An inquest into Joe’s death will be opened today, Thursday, at Bradford Coroner’s Court.
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