Tributes paid to ‘loving, caring’ Rick Clements who died in Wattisham pond accident

Warm and emotional tributes were paid yesterday to the Suffolk man who died when a mini-tractor toppled into a garden pond trapping him underneath.

The tragedy has shocked the peaceful village of Wattisham where 61-year-old Rick Clements has lived for more than 20 years with his wife Kate and family.

Mr Clements, a retired senior manager at PPG in Stowmarket, was a stalwart of the community and has been described as a tireless helper – he was a trustee of the charitable group that now runs the village’s redundant St Nicholas’ Church as a social centre.

He went to every parish council meeting he could and was chosen as the community’s liaison officer with the nearby Wattisham Airfield and the Army who fly Apache helicopters out of the former RAF station.

Yesterday his grieving wife Kate said: “Rick was a loving, caring husband, father and grandfather who was also a very sociable and amusing man – his loss will leave a huge hole in lots of lives.

“He cared a great deal for the village and was always prepared to help out.”

The couple, who between them have a son and daughter from previous marriages and three grandchildren, had been together for more than 20 years. Rick’s daughter Crystal, 27, from nearby Barking, gave birth to a son Rupert just nine days ago.

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She said: “Dad was a wonderful father – and we are just glad that he did get to see his first grandson.”

Mr Clements’ manager at the PPG business Pedro Perez, said: “I worked with Rick for 17 years and he was a great chap – always lively and sociable and seeing the funny side of things.

“He made life more pleasant for everyone he came into contact with – everyone liked him.”

Mr Clements had been clearing scrub from around the pond at his home on the outskirts of Wattisham on Monday afternoon when the tragedy happened.

It is believed that the small tractor with a digger bucket on the back that he was using toppled over into the water, trapping him underneath.

Neighbours, including farmer David Cooper, rushed to help and eventually six people managed to lift the machine that was almost submerged in order for Mr Clements to be pulled free.

His stepson Marcus, 34, who was visiting with his wife and two young children, gave CPR immediately and efforts to revive Mr Clements continued until paramedics and an air ambulance arrived. But unfortunately it was too late to save him.

“He was always very health and safety-conscious and experienced with machinery,” added his wife.

“But he was working alone in the garden and we don’t know when the accident happened.

“We have had massive support from friends, neighbours and people in the village – Rick was such a popular man – and we’d like to thank all the emergency services who did all they could.”