Family, friends and rugby club colleagues of Stephen Penrice, the man who fell to his death while working on Eastbourne Pier last Tuesday, have paid further tribute to ‘a great guy, the best smile in the North of England.’
Mr Penrice, 44 from Cumbria, was declared dead at the scene after sustaining a serious head injury. He had been part of a close-knit team of contractors who travel the country working on piers. His employer, MP Marine Ltd, worked regularly on Eastbourne Pier for about seven years. Known affectionately as ‘Penny,’ Mr Penrice had many friends in the town.
Pier owners Cuerden Leisure described the event as a ‘terrible tragedy’ and said their thoughts were with his family.
Bricklayer Stephen Penrice lived with his partner Shannon and her son Liam in Maryport. His mother Winnie was ‘deeply moved’ by the tributes she received from communities in both the North and South of England.
His uncle, Robert Maxwell said the family was ‘shocked and saddened’ but messages posted through the door of their home in Maryport kept them strong.
Katie Boyle from Eastbourne posted a message on the Eastbourne Herald website describing Mr Penrice as ‘a lovely man with a massive smile to match his kind heart.’
He played rugby for Netherhall Rugby Club for many years and club chairman John Shimmings, 66, said the club plans a memorial to him. He went on,“We are still in shock. He retired from the game about five or six years ago but we would call him back when we needed to fill a place. He represented his county at junior level and played alongside current England Rugby Union head coach Stuart Lancaster at Netherhall.”
Fellow player John Pickering, 64, knew Mr Penrice for 27 years. He said, “He was a fantastic guy and always had a smile on his face. If he had been a foot taller he would have played for England, he was that good.”
Police are still investigating the cause of the devastating fire which destroyed a third of the pier on July 30. Forensic experts are currently recovering CCTV footage and considering whether or not it was caused deliberately.