“A TERRIBLE end to a wonderful life.”

That was how the death of James Atherton was described by those who knew him through his work at Southampton University, where he was on the verge of completing a vital medical research project.

As reported in yesterday’s Daily Echo, the 25-year-old student died from injuries after he was involved in a crash with a car in the New Forest while riding with friends.

Last night, tributes to the popular cyclist, who was studying a PhD in medicine, continued to pour in, led by his course leader.

Dr Nicola Englyst said: “James was an extremely talented student who was in the final year of his PhD in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

“He was looking forward to completing his doctoral thesis and continuing with his research into how blood vessels maintain their health.

“James’s research brought him into contact with many staff and students in the hospital and the university.

“He was generous with his time and energy and always had time for anyone who asked his help and he will be sorely missed.

“James was someone who was good at everything he put his mind to. His death is a terrible end to a wonderful life.”

Mr Atherton was also well known in the local cycling community and was a former member of Southampton Triathlon Club.

Chairman Julian McCarthy said: “The local triathlon and cycling community is small and close knit, and we were devastated to hear of his tragic death at such a young age and would like to express our condolences to his family and racing friends who will miss his quiet determination and his natural ability.”

Mr Atherton was originally from St Anne’s in Lancashire, where tributes were also being paid by friends.

Childhood friend Sam Auty described him as “unbelievably sporty” as a youngster who captained his school’s cricket team and represented Lancashire in rugby.

Judith Cooper, head teacher at his former school AKS Lytham, said: “James was an outstanding young man and a great ambassador.

“At the age of 13 he completed the 58km EIGER bike challenge and he also toured New Zealand and Corsica.

“Our thoughts go out to his parents and brother Charles at this tragic time.”

Police are investigating the accident that happened just before 11am on Sunday and involved a grey Volswagen Golf being driven by a 57-year-old man from Worcestershire.

Mr Atherton was airlifted to hospital but died on Monday.

Contact Totton Roads Policing Unit on 101.