HE WAS a promising superbike rider, who always wore a smile, but the town of Uralla is in shock following the death of a loved local.
Lachie Thomas, 21, died almost instantly after his ute left the New England Highway five kilometres north of Uralla just after 6am yesterday.
The accident sent shock waves through the close-knit community, mourning the loss of the young man who only celebrated his 21st birthday on Tuesday .
Neighbour Ron Finn described Lachie as nothing short of an outstanding young man.
“Every time I saw Lach, I always came out with a smile,” Mr Finn told The Leader yesterday.
“He was a very, very likeable boy.”
Lachie had made a name for himself on the superbike circuit, competing in the FX Superbike Championship with the Inglis Honda Racing Team and had won his stage last year.
“He’d been down practising there at Eastern Creek on Sunday ... his whole life revolved around that,” Mr Finn said.
“He’d just moved up into a higher grade with the bikes and he was achieving his dream.”
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But when he wasn’t on two wheels Lachie was working behind the counter at Trina’s, his family’s cafe in the main street.
This is where everyone in town knew him, according to Mr Finn.
“He was the tea and coffee boy,” he said.
“He didn’t know how to swear; he was always pleasant and very well mannered.
“He was an exception ... a true gentleman.”
News of the accident trickled through town yesterday morning after a passerby noticed the ute lying in a paddock.
Armidale police Inspector Roger Best said it was a tragic accident, where a young life had been taken too soon.
“Responding to these types of incidents is always distressing,” he said.
“However, it was made more so by the fact that the young man was well known to the local officers.
“He was well known to the local Uralla community and was a wonderful young man who came from a close and loving family.”
As a police investigation got under way, tributes began to flow in on Facebook for the 21-year-old with many posting messages of condolences.
And the community has begun rallying around the family in the wake of their loss, too.
Uralla mayor Michael Pearce said locals were devastated.
“It’s probably distressing for the town in general,” Cr Pearce said.
“It’s a tragedy to lose someone so young from our community.”
Cr Pearce said Lachie was a familiar face to many around town, which makes his loss harder to comprehend.
“Getting a coffee ... it’s a daily visit by people, so it’s very distressing,” he said.
“Our best wishes and sympathy go out to the family at this time.
“And hopefully, as a community, we can bond together and gain strength from each other at this time.”
Police say inquiries into what caused the fatal accident are continuing, but a report will now be prepared for the coroner.