Richelle Newell died with her two best friends, her beloved Labrador Mystie and her neighbour John Hudson, whom she called grandfather.
They were on their way to the veterinary clinic at Green Hills for a blood test to
investigate Mystie’s suspected thyroid condition when the Hyundai Excel Mr Hudson was driving veered onto the wrong side of John Renshaw Drive in a 40km/h zone and crashed into two four-wheel-drives.
Miss Newell, 40, died at the scene, while Mr Hudson, 74, died after being taken to hospital. Mystie died at Cessnock Veterinary Clinic.
Tributes have poured in for the two Kurri Kurri residents.
Miss Newell has been described as the girl with a beautiful soul who helped everyone.
She was born with no hearing in one ear and only partial hearing in the other, but that didn’t stop her doing what she wanted.
She was to graduate from TAFE on Thursday after completing a computer skills course; she had recently completed her first aid certificate, would help out wherever and whenever she could, and taught children at Sunday School each week.
Her father Ian said his daughter had a gift to help others.
“She touched people; she just had this knack of touching you and making you feel better about yourself,” he said. “She walked everywhere and would stop and talk to people and if they had a problem she would sit and talk to them; she listened to them, she didn’t have any qualifications in counselling or anything, she just listened and she had a knack of putting people’s minds at ease.”
Mr Newell said Mystie was his daughter’s whole world.
“She was always particular about how you spelt it,” he said.
“She was her baby . . . like she was mine. She would walk the dog every day without fail.”
Her mother Kay Lynette died suddenly in 2000 at the age of 52. Miss Newell had moved back with her parents the month before her mother died and since then she had lived with her father.
Her best friend Michelle Ballard said Miss Newell and Mr Hudson were great friends.
The pair met about 10 years ago when Miss Newell was walking Mystie and stopped to chat to Mr Hudson and his dog, who lived in a nearby street.
“He lived on his own and she would always stop and talk to him during her walks and the dogs would always bark at each other,” she said.
“They loved each other dearly and had a grandfather-granddaughter relationship; she even referred to him as grandfather.
“If he was sick she would go and buy him a chicken and take it to him or bring him some cakes.”
Ms Ballard said Miss Newell had been bullied throughout her life because of her weight, but she never listened to people’s criticisms.
“She never let it get to her, she would always have a smile and help people,” she said.
“She got into a weight loss program and lost 25 kilos and people were commenting on how good she looked.
“She sat down with a little girl who was being bullied at school and told her how she had also been bullied at school; the mother of that girl said to me [after hearing about her death] that the one thing she would always remember was that Richelle took the time to talk to her daughter.”
Ms Ballard said Miss Newell’s death was a great loss to her family and the Kurri Kurri community.
“I can just hear her saying ‘Cheer up, I had a good life’,” she said.
Miss Newell leaves behind her father, her sister Tracey-Ann Winchester, 42, of Cessnock, and her brother Jason Newell, 36, of Kurri Kurri.
Newcastle Crash Investigation Unit is investigating the cause of the crash.