TRIBUTES were last night paid to the five victims of a horrific head-on road crash.
Three of the victims of the fatal collision near Keith, Moray were Scots while the other two, including a four-year-old boy, were Italian tourists.
Evalyn Collie, 69, and Audrey Appleby, 70, of Aberchider in Aberdeenshire, and Ted Reid, 63, of Macduff died on the A96 on Thursday night when the 4×4 they were travelling in collided with a mini bus.
The driver of the car, oil rig worker Morag Smith, 39, survived but remained in a serious condition in Dr Gray’s hospital in Elgin.
The brother of the four-year-old Italian boy, believed to be a year younger, sustained minor injuries.
Their mum, who works as a prison officer in Brucoli, Italy, and dad – understood to be a port authority soldier in Augusta – are in intensive care, while another Italian woman travelling with them was also killed in the crash. Her male companion last night remained in hospital.
The road was closed for more than 12 hours to allow police to investigate the scene.
The Scottish Ambulance Service sent seven vehicles and a special response ream, while a coastguard helicopter flew one patient to hospital.
The four Scots involved in the crash had been travelling home from a country and western night, held once a fortnight in the ex-Servicemen’s Club in Elgin.
Elgin Country Music Club chair, Billy Main, 75, from Buckie, and wife Maureen were in shock yesterday.
Billy said: “It’s dreadful news. They were lovely people.
“We hold a Country night once a fortnight and they were regular attenders.
“They have been coming for four or five years so they were really well known. They loved their country music.
“On Thursday night they sang along and danced to country singer Trey Jackson from Newcastle.
“It was a great night and they thoroughly enjoyed it as always.
“Everyone liked them. They were good company and friends with everyone. We are all devastated by the news. So very, very sad.”
David Eagles from Burghead and his wife Julie also attended the country night. Last night, David said: “Everyone is in shock at the terrible news.”
Evalyn Collie was the first full-time member of staff at Gordon Dementia Services in Inverurie and worked there until she retired in 2015.
She helped the service grow to support people in need.
She was actively involved in the community, and was part of the Aberchirder & District Community Association.
Vice-chairman Richard Waters said she was “a very good friend to us all”.
Maxine Smith, who owns The New Inn in Aberchirder, said: “She used to come here with a group of people to eat. She was just a very relaxed, easy-going person. Really lovely. She was always willing to do things for people.
“At the moment, we are developing a community garden. She was a big part of that and the sad thing is she’s not going to see it finished. It’s really sad.
“She was in groups like the line dancing, which was great. We are going to miss her terribly.”
Last night, grieving relatives of the Italians involved in the crash were on their way to Scotland, with the children’s grandparents understood to be part of the group travelling from Syracuse in Sicily.
Carlo Perrotta, the Italian Consul General for Scotland, said authorities were supporting the families involved.
He said: “Words cannot tell how sad we are to hear these stories and to have to report to our authorities in Italy and to the families.
“The consul was at the hospital trying to provide what help we can.”
A spokesman said: “The Honorary Consul of Italy for Aberdeen extends its deepest sympathy to all those affected by the tragic accident on the A96.
“We will be supporting the families of the Italian citizens involved in any way we can.”
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