A High Wycombe schoolboy died this week after he fell off a water raft during a school trip to Ecuador.

Sixth former, 17-year-old Matthew Hitchman, fell from an inflatable white water raft on Sunday however desperate attempts to save him “proved impossible”

A group of staff and students from the Royal Grammar School had embarked on a month-long trip to the South American country to carry out community work.

The group had just completed a trek to the Northern Andes three weeks into the trip when tragedy struck.

School headmaster, Philip Wayne, paid an emotional tribute to the “caring and well liked” pupil who will be “sadly missed by all who knew him”.

He said: “Hardworking, courteous and reliable and described as a ‘splendid young man’ by his form tutor, Matthew had the qualities of someone who, combined with his academic ability, was destined to do well.

“He had a love of world travel and was excited about the study of chemistry or chemical engineering in the future.

“Our hearts and our thoughts go out to Matthew’s family. We would ask that the family’s privacy be respected at this very difficult and distressing time.

“The whole school community will be affected by this news and we are doing all we can to support Matthew’s team mates and in turn, the school community, in every way possible.”

Mr Wayne added the school had been focused on “ensuring the safe and compassionate return of 11 boys to the UK without one of their team mates.”

The group was working on a community project to provide sustainable tourism income in a remote area of Ecuador.

High Wycombe dignitaries have paid tribute to the schoolboy, who would have been due to pick up his As-Level results next week.

Mayor of High Wycombe, councillor Brian Pearce, paid tribute to the schoolboy, saying: “I am shocked, 17-years-old. I was at the RGS for prize giving at the end of term. It is tragic and a great shock – just before A-Level results too.

“It must be devastating for the school and staff there, and of course his family. What can I say? It is just awful and so very young.”

Wycombe MP, Steve Baker, added: “The terrible loss of Matthew Hitchman will be the most appalling shock to his family, friends and the school. I am confident Wycombe’s hearts will go out to them.”

An investigation into the tragedy is already underway according to trek organisers, World Challenge.

Do you know Matthew? Send your tributes to jasmine.rapson@london.newsquest.co.uk