LEAVE YOUR TRIBUTES IN THE COMMENTS FIELD BELOW
NATHAN Bear's shattered friends wept and embraced yesterday as they stood on a lonely roadside where the popular young man's car had left the road only hours earlier and slammed into a tree.
All they wanted was one more of those famous "Bear hugs".
But it was impossible - the 23-year-old they simply called "Bear" had not survived the brutal impact on Port Stephens Drive at Salamander Bay which had seen a large tree snap in half.
Police will investigate how Mr Bear's black Holden sedan left a straight stretch of the rural road as he was driving home about 11pm on Monday and hit the tree.
Despite the best efforts of nearby residents and paramedics, Mr Bear died at the scene.
"The whole town will collapse," friend Katrina Harris said yesterday.
"Everyone from the age of 20 to 25 will just drop - the whole lot of us."
Another mate, Nathan Trenerry, added: "Then add the guys he surfed with, the gym guys. Everyone knew him."
Mr Bear's family were too distraught to speak yesterday as news filtered through the Tomaree Peninsula communities that it had lost one of its most popular young men.
Mr Bear had been a student at the local Tomaree High School and worked locally.
He had spent five years sculpting his body to the powerful physique that was the envy of his friends.
But those same mates spoke yesterday of the bloke who still loved his McDonald's, was the life of the party and never had a smile off his face.
"If you were down, he would always be there to give you a hug, and it was a big bear hug," friend Bianca Mikhael said.
"He was a fun-loving party animal who no one ever saw angry or upset.
"He was always laughing, he was just a happy person."
His friends also spoke about a man who had inspired others to be healthier, to take care of their bodies and be kind to one another.
"I reckon there have been at least 30 people I know who have decided to go to the gym because of Bear," Mr Trenerry said.
"He was about improving the quality of life, and he inspired people.
"That is the kind of guy he was."
Mr Bear had only just got another "sleeve tattoo" on his arm, and there was talk yesterday that his friends would each get a piece inked onto their bodies as a mark of respect.
Resident Bob Bakker was one of the first on the scene of the accident and said there was nothing that could have been done.
His wife, Janita, had woken him up after hearing a "horrific screech and this loud bang" before he rushed down the road.
"I thought I heard voices," Mr Bakker said.
"I said to another guy there must be another one in there but it was the radio, the radio was still going."
A report will be prepared for the coroner.