A COUPLE have paid tribute to their ‘inspirational’ son after he died in a snowboarding accident in France.
Michael Handley was an accomplished snowboarder who had been working winter seasons in Mont-de-Lan for the past two years while training for the British Snowboarding Championships.
The 20-year-old had decided to snowboard down one of the mountains on the alpine resort, Les Deux Alpes, when the accident happened.
His family said it was a route that he had taken many times before, but after becoming airborne part way through the run, he landed badly.
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He tumbled 200 metres downhill and was left with a serious head injury.
Michael was treated for his injuries in the nearby Grenoble University Hospital and was on the same ward as Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher who had been injured in a skiing accident.
After two days of intensive care, he passed away with his family by his side.
Dad Tony and Mum Tracey described their son as popular, lively and ‘the life and soul of the party’.
Tony said: “He was an inspiration to me. He was my son and he made me want to do more with my life.
“He was so young but he’d achieved so much. He’d travelled all over and made friends all around the world. He really lived life to the full.”
Michael was born on August 6, 1993, and had two older brothers, Tom and Sam, and a twin brother, Matthew.
He attended St Antony’s RC Primary School, in Shadsworth Road, before going on to attend Our Lady and St John’s RC Art College in North Road.
The family remember Michael’s childhood as an active one with family camping trips to the south of England encouraging his love for sport and outdoor adventure.
It was an interest that he shared with his brothers and father, who had been a keen ice climber in his youth.
Described as a bright and intelligent child, Michael left school with nine GCSE and went on to study at St Mary’s College but found that academia did not nurture his naturally adventurous nature.
Tony said: “He was a clever lad but he just wanted to be out there living.
“He was always dying to travel and experience new things and he always loved surfing, biking, swimming - any outdoor extreme sport.
“He told us he was going to go to Newquay because he’d always loved it down there and wanted to be close to where he could surf.
“I remember saying to him, it’s a recession, I’m not sure if you’ll get a job straight away, but he saved up, didn’t ask for a penny from us, and went down there with a handful of CVs and had two or three jobs by the end of the week.
“He just knew what he wanted and could do anything.”
For the past three years, he spent his time between Newquay and Cornwall, working in hotels and surfing as often as he could, and the French alps, where he would snowboard inbetween working as a manager at La Farandole hotel.
He and a friend also spent three months travelling in India together.
Michael’s eldest brother, Tom, who serves in the Royal Navy, said: “He was a great brother and looked after my daughter while I was away with the navy.
“He had friends all over the country, all over the world, really. He travelled around so much and everyone liked him.”
Tom, 25, had been offered a job doing winter sports during the 2014 season but has declined the offer in light of Michael’s accident.
Tom added: “It won’t put us off those kinds of sports forever because we knew Michael and we knew what he was like.
“Snowboarding and surfing were his passion and he would be upset to think that any of us had given up an opportunity because of what happened to him. He’d never want that to happen.”
Tracey said: “It is truly devastating. But if there’s anything to take away from this, it’s to live like Michael did. He would grasp every opportunity there was and make the best of it and he had an amazing life because of that.
“That’s what I would like to pass on to other people. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you want to do today. Just do what you love and don’t hold back. Mikey never did.”