The heartbroken parents and long-term girlfriend of a man killed in a crash have spoken of their shock and devastation, admitting he will be a huge miss and leaves a massive hole in their lives.
Christopher Penney died after a collision between his van and an HGV on the road between Longhoughton and Denwick at around 7.30am on Friday, May 13.
The 28-year-old, who was born and bred in Belford but was living in Longhoughton, was driving to pick up his friend on the way to work when the incident happened. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Christopher’s funeral was held yesterday at West Road Crematorium, in Newcastle, and his death has shaken all those who knew and loved him.
Earlier this week, his parents Sue and Charlie, and his girlfriend of nine years, Jamie Milligan, paid tribute to fun-loving Christopher who ‘could walk into a room and light it up’.
His parents, from Belford and both 57, admit that they are struggling to come to terms with the death of their only child, while Jamie, who lived with Christopher in Longhoughton, said she has lost one half of herself.
Sue said: “Christopher was a very genuine young man. He was full of life and always smiling. To lose your only son at such a young age and when he was in such a good place in his life is devastating.
“I relive the day of the crash every day. I’m finding it hard to move forward – I feel as if I am stuck in a bubble. You do what you can to get through each day.”
Charlie, who worked with Christopher for builder and contractor NB Clark, added: “He never judged. He was totally relaxed about everything and he took everything in his stride.
“I feel numb and it is very hard to accept. Sue doted on him and he will be a massive miss – he was very loyal and a huge presence. I feel like I have lost my right arm. I worked with him and I trusted him.”
His long-term partner Jamie, 27, spoke of her grief at losing her soulmate, whom she called Penney.
The trainee accountant said: “It hasn’t sunk in yet. I am in a bit of a bubble. It has always been Jamie and Penney – I don’t know how to be Jamie without Penney.
“He was the other half of me. It was just so sudden – he said ‘bye’, went to work and didn’t come back. It is just awful. He has left a massive hole in everybody’s life and the world is a worse place without him, because he was such a good person.
“He didn’t have a bad bone in his body. He made everything fun and he had a cracking sense of humour – even if I was on the receiving end of it.
“He was a wind-up merchant. He had lots of friends. I never heard a bad word said about him. He had a massive smile on his face all the time. He was so much fun.”
The pair met at a beach party in Alnmouth when they were teenagers and they had a bright future ahead of them, having moved into their first house together four years ago.
Jamie said: “It was a long-running joke that he never proposed, but we had the house on the market because we were looking for a bigger place to start a family in the future.”
Christopher had numerous hobbies, but his major passions were football and cars.
A keen Manchester United fan, Christopher used to have a season-ticket and travelled to games with the Berwick Supporters’ Club. As a youngster, he idolised United goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel, but he was also fond of players such as David Beckham – and the other members of the Class of ‘92 – and Ronaldo.
A framed and signed Man Utd shirt honouring the Red Devils’ 2008 Champions League final victory over Chelsea takes pride of place in the living room of the couple’s Longhoughton home. “I sat and bid on that on eBay and gave it to him for Christmas,” said Jamie.
The couple had two cats and one of them is named Louis – after now ex-United boss Louis van Gaal.
Christopher played football for North Northumberland League side, Embleton Whinstone Rovers.
The club has paid its respects to the popular left-back and paid condolences to his family. A touching post on the team’s Facebook page read: ‘Chris is and will always be remembered for his dedication and gentle nature during his short period with EWR. Never one to complain or make a fuss. He just got on with it.
‘Chris is simply one of the few gentlemen left on this planet and we were extremely lucky to have known him and played alongside him’.
Christopher died the day before Embleton were due to play their last game of the season against Spittal Rovers. The Division Two match was rearranged for Wednesday, May 18.
A minute’s silence was held prior to kick-off and Christopher’s family and friends attended the game – on what was an emotional occasion.
Perhaps Christopher’s biggest passion was cars. He loved modifying and tweaking vehicles and often used to take them to track days. He used to watch YouTube videos to learn how to repair and tweak various things.
His current motor was a Renault Clio Sport, which was described by Jamie as his little project. The smart-looking vehicle was photographed to appear in the Performance French Car Magazine, which Sue said ‘would have made his day’.
Christopher was educated in Belford and Berwick, before studying at Newcastle College. He was a machine operator for NB Clark, having worked his way up through the ranks after leaving college.
Charlie said: “He was a damn good machine operator. He had a natural ability to do the job.”
Christopher had been on his way to work, at a site in Wooler, when he was killed. He was working on the project with his father, who is a site manager.
His funeral was a humanist ceremony and donations were taken for charity. The beneficiary has not yet been chosen, but his parents want it to be something which would mean a lot to Christopher.
Sue, Charlie and Jamie have been overwhelmed by the support they have received. Sue said: “The house is coming down with cards and flowers and messages and well-wishes have come in on social media.
“There has not been a bad word to be said about him. We knew he had friends and he was well-liked, but we didn’t appreciate how far that circle went.”