He was a devoted father who idolised his children and childhood sweetheart.
But now, Karl Carson’s family have to live each day knowing they will never see their “best friend” again.
The 26-year-old, who played for Wearside League outfit Boldon CA, died last month after an evening attending an engagement party ended in a seafront tragedy, which is still the subject of a police inquiry.
It left his former partner Laura Nisbet and their two children, Leah, five, and Oliver, four, heartbroken.
Today, Laura – who is also mum to Gabriella, one – paid tribute to the “popular” and “much-loved” man who stole her heart after they first met at Boldon Comprehensive School, in New Road, as youngsters.
“Even though I know he is gone, I still expect him to come through the door or ring me up and say ‘right, where are we going with the kids today?
“When the police knocked on the door and told me what had happened I didn’t believe it, I didn’t believe one word they were saying.
“We had all been out on the day of the party, swimming and for a meal – the whole thing just didn’t seem real.”
Laura and Karl, who split as a couple three years ago, had remained good friends and were working on rekindling the relationship they once had.
The 26-year-old, from Biddick Hall, South Shields, where both her and Karl lived for a short time before their split, said: “We had been together since we were 12 years old after meeting at school.
“He was so funny, a class clown. He was really popular at school and loved his football and cricket.
“When I was 16, I fell pregnant with our first child, which we lost. It devastated both of us. But then we went on to have Leah and then, a year later, Oliver.
“Three years ago we split up, but we remained friends. I went on to have Gabriella.
“More recently we had been going out and doing more things as a family again, and we had talked about one day maybe getting back together.
“I can’t even explain what kind of father Karl was. He was just an absolutely amazing dad, the kids were always spoilt – even Gabriella, who he treated as his own and who she looked on as a father figure.
“Everyone who knew Karl has been left devastated by what has happened, but for the kids, it’s like they have lost not just their dad but their best friend.
“They are missing him so much, we all are. They love to talk about him and tell people about him.
“His loss has left a huge hole in all our lives.
“We’d like to thank all our family and friends for the support they have given us at this time.”
Karl’s body was discovered at the bottom of cliffs at Marsden just after 1am on Sunday, July 6.
He had earlier attended an engagement party at the Marsden Grotto pub, where police had been called to the pub car park to deal with a disturbance.
Karl, from Boldon Colliery, was placed in a police vehicle, but the circumstances of how he came to be found at the foot of the cliffs are the subject of an ongoing Northumbria Police inquiry.
He came from a talented footballing family. One younger brother, Danny, 24, plays for Northern League side Jarrow Roofing, while 18-year-old sibling David joined Blackburn Rovers earlier this year on a one-year professional contract.
Jason Jones, Karl’s manager at Boldon CA, said: “He was a character in the dressing room, and when things weren’t going well he lifted spirits and made people believe that could turn the game around and win the game.”