Family pays tribute to popular Meningie truck driver killed in freight train collision


April 24, 2020 16:18:05

The truck driver killed in a collision with a freight train in regional South Australia on Sunday is being remembered as a loving and gentle grandfather, as well as a devoted community member.

Key points:

  • Harvey Betts was killed in a crash between his truck and a freight train
  • Coronavirus restrictions mean many members of his local community cannot attend his funeral
  • His family is preparing an event celebrating his life for when restrictions ease

Meningie man Harvey Betts, 62, died on Sunday when his truck collided with a freight train at a level crossing just off the Dukes Highway at Culburra, near Coonalpyn.

His family said while many members of the Meningie community were upset at not being able to attend his funeral because of coronavirus restrictions, it had been comforted by an outpouring of support.

“We’ve just been inundated,” son Daniel Betts said.

“There’s been so much love from the community. We feel so thankful for all the support given.”

Mr Betts was a prominent member of the Meningie community in South Australia’s lower lakes region, and owned and operated his own business for over forty years.

“He was a self-made businessman back before I was born,” his son said.

“He loved to work, but he loved his family as well.”

His family described him as a “larger than life” man who was always keen to help others, and “loved mentoring young people in the community”.

“He was quite charitable, quite helpful around the Meningie community, always helped a lot of people out,” Daniel Betts said.

“He always did things his own way. He was pretty rough on the exterior, but he was really soft and gentle on the inside.”

Those sentiments have been echoed by life-long friend Joye Smith.

“[He was] an icon and a definite character in the Meningie community,” Ms Smith said.

“A genius with his hands — with machinery one minute, to cooking up a MasterChef-quality roast the next.

“He achieved so much in his life, but his biggest achievement will always be [his children].”

Mr Betts is the third person to die in a collision with a train in South Australia this year, after a crash killed two Blazeaid volunteers at Mallala in February.

‘Big party to celebrate his life’

Despite being well-loved in the town, coronavirus restrictions will stop much of the community from attending the funeral for Mr Betts.

Coronavirus restrictions allow no more than 10 people, including the staff and officiants, to gather at funerals.

His daughter Denise O’Neill said she was disappointed the community would not be able to come together.

“His funeral would have overflowed the local school hall,” Ms O’Neill said.

“We would really like to give the community the opportunity to share in the celebration of his life.”

The family is planning to hold a memorial for Mr Betts in September, once restrictions lift and the community is able to attend.

“Because of all these restrictions we’re going to have a big party to celebrate his life,” Daniel Betts said.

“We’d like everybody to go to because they can’t make it this time.”











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