THE people of Brynaman came together on Sunday to mourn the loss of one of the village’s most popular young sportsmen and celebrate his life.

The community has been devastated by the death of 25-year-old Mike Richards, who drowned in the River Aman during the early hours of February 14.

Mike, a flanker with Brynaman RFC while also turning out for Bryn Rovers AFC, was seen to enter the river at 3.45am after a night out with friends.

Despite their frantic efforts, Mike disappeared under the water after heavy rain had turned the river into a torrent. His body was recovered near Nant Gwyn Bridge at 8am.

Best friend Karl Jones who dived into the river to try to save his pal has been left distraught.

Karl’s dad Nigel, landlord of Mike’s local the Derlwyn Arms, held a wake in Mike’s honour on Sunday and was overwhelmed by the community’s response.

“There was a huge crowd,” said Nigel, who knew Mike all his life.

“All of Brynaman came out to pay their respects.

“Mike was Karl’s best friend and I looked on him almost as a second son.

“He was a lovely, lovely lad. His death is an absolute tragedy.”

Brynaman RFC secretary Eric Griffiths offered the thoughts of everyone at the club to Mike’s family.

“He was a massive presence on the field and off it. He was a hugelyvalued member of our club and our community,” he said.

“He will be sadly missed. Everyone here is devastated.”

Mike’s Facebook wall has been inundated with tributes.

Speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, prior to the wake, pal David D’Angelo said: “So as the boys raise a toast to celebrate your life I will be there in heart and raising a drink for you over here.”

During the wake, £1,890 was raised in Mike’s memory.

The funeral is to take place on Saturday (February 23) at Ebenezer Chapel, Brynaman, from 11am.