Grieving Hatfield family’s safety plea in memory of Simon
PUBLISHED: 16:00 11 August 2018
supplied by Lorna Sanders
Twenty years after her son’s tragic fall through a skylight, a Hatfield family is pleading with youths to consider the dangers of climbing on roofs.
On June 24, 1998, popular 14-year-old Simon May was playing frisbee with a friend in the forecourt of a disused garage near Asda in Hatfield.
When the frisbee flew onto the garage roof, Simon clambered up to get it.
A single misstep sent the young man through an old skylight in a fall that ended his life, devastating his family.
Today, seeing recent news and social media reports about teens climbing on roofs and tall buildings around Welwyn Hatfield, Simon’s family is begging young people to understand the potential consequences.
“I wish I could talk to these children and tell them how serious it is,” his mother, Lorna Sanders, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times.
“You just think to yourself, if only these kids knew how easy it is to be hurt really badly.”
Remembering that she used to climb trees as a kid herself, she sometimes tries to warn kids she sees scampering about dangerously - but they don’t always respond politely.
Lorna pointed out that roofs are not maintained with climbing in mind. “A roof is there for years, you don’t know how steady it is,” she said.
Simon didn’t have far to fall, but landed on the concrete floor in a way that hit his brain stem and killed him.
With the summer holidays and teens at a loose end, online chatter about youth climbing antics “brings all those memories back,” said Lorna.
“I think parents should make their children aware of the dangers of some of these things that they do.”
A police spokesperson backed up Lorna’s appeal, saying: “We would urge children and young people to think about how much danger they are putting themselves in if they choose to climb buildings or other tall structures.
“You may not be immediately aware of hidden dangers, such as unstable materials, and as a result you could seriously injure yourself or worse.
“Please think twice – we don’t want to have to knock on your family’s door and give them the worst news of their life.”
If Simon were alive today, he would be 34, and Lorna believes he would either be working with his painter and decorator brother, or perhaps in some role as a community worker.
As a schoolboy, he was helpful and kind, getting involved with a school project to help out at old people’s homes.
After his death his school launched the May Award for community service in his name.
“He was always smiling and happy, and nothing would get him down,” said Lorna, remembering how loving he was towards her. “Even if all his mates were there he wouldn’t be worried about coming and giving me a hug.”
She chuckled as she talked about his spot-on Jim Carrey impression; and re-told the story of how he begged her for a pair of trainers, and then came back from the shop with two left feet; or the time they went to see Titanic together, only for him to love it so much he returned to watch it twice more.
“Memories like that are such special moments for me,” she said, saying that he was known as a “lovable rogue.”
“He was such a likeable and funny boy, I think that’s why so many people are remembering him and talking about him.”
After his death, Lorna was surprised by the outpouring of support that came from the community.
Graffiti tributes began to appear all over the garage where he fell, with messages such as “Simon May, loved by all”.
Friends of Simon began to gather there to remember him and process their emotions around his death.
“It was really quite an emotional place for the young people to gather and talk,” she said.
But Lorna wants to try and ensure no other families have to go through what they have.
“There’s times when I’m ok and there’s times when I’m not ok,” she said. “If this story can save just one child it will be a comfort.”