THE HEARTBROKEN family of a star student who collapsed after a night out cannot believe he has died at just 20.
Ali Bunney’s family was preparing to celebrate the Cardiff University undergraduate and former St Peter’s RC High School pupil’s 21st birthday later this month.
Instead they are faced with saying goodbye at his funeral.
He was found unconscious at the edge of Gloucestershire Airport on Sunday afternoon and despite every effort to save him, he died later that day.
His family believe he may have tried to walk home from a night out in Cheltenham, and wearing only trousers and a shirt, succumbed to the cold.
“We can’t believe what’s happened,” said his mum Marissa.
After Longlevens infant and junior schools, he went to St Peter’s where he achieved three Bs in maths, economics and physics. He was in the first year of a degree in economics and accounting at Cardiff and shared a flat in the bay area with his brother Jefferson.
“We don’t know for sure why he left and why he started walking,” said Jefferson.
The family believes he left his coat with a friend in Cheltenham to take home so he didn’t have to pay to leave it in a cloakroom, and his mobile phone wasn’t working. He had been out earlier with girlfriend Summer Pineda to celebrate a relative’s birthday, then went clubbing in Cheltenham where he became separated from his friends.
He was used to walking long distances - sometimes he would walk in to Cardiff for lectures.
A motorist told police they saw a man walking alongside the A40 Golden Valley bypass at 3.20am, said his mum, but officers could not find him. She said his hands were covered in scratches, indicating he may have climbed through a hedge to reach shelter at the airport. But he was found near the perimeter fence, she said.
After a dog walker found Ali and dialled 999 Gloucestershire Airport’s fire crew members swiftly administered first aid and he was rushed to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital where medics spent three hours trying to save his life.
“He was so cold, he was only 22 degrees,” said his dad Nigel.
Mrs Bunney added: “He went up to 27 degrees but they said they could do no more. It was very sudden.”
His younger brother, Jefferson, paid tribute to him on Facebook.
“It’s still a shock and we're all still in disbelief, but whether you know him well or just know of him, I'm sure you all have at least some fluffy memory of Ali to keep,” he said.
“Although we had our fights and aren't as close as we were (as kids), there has always been something that I could only talk to him about.
“I couldn't thank him enough for everything I've learnt from him, being two years behind.
“He was always first to jump in, for me to follow, he could make me laugh when I least expected, he always cares and he's the best at motivating me. I'm so confused...why you Ali? Too fast, too soon man! I really wanted to see him turn dreams into his future. I wouldn't have told him - but he's a massive part of my life.”
His dad said he would be greatly missed.
“As far as I was concerned, he was an absolute saint of a son and a joy to be with,” said Mr Bunney. “He was very patient and caring, and a very well-liked person.”
Andy Barnard, head of sixth form at St Peter’s, said staff were thrilled when Ali gained great A level results.
“He didn’t always find it easy but he never gave up, and did very well in challenging subjects,” he said. “Our hearts go out to his family.”
Gloucestershire Airport head of operations, Darren Lewington said: “We can confirm that our emergency service personnel were alerted by a member of the public on Sunday to an unconscious male on a remote part of the Airport perimeter near to the A40 Golden Valley bypass.
“They attended the scene immediately and rendered first aid and CPR until the ambulance service arrived.
“On behalf of everyone at the airport, we’d like to offer our sincere condolences to Ali’s family and friends at this tragic time.”
The Gloucestershire Coroner has been informed of Ali’s death and an inquest is expected to be opened tomorrow.
The funeral will be held at 12.30pm on March 7 at St Peter’s church, Gloucester.