Jake Collins: Mother Paula Southern's ultimate act of forgiveness for her son's best mate, charged over the Mungo Brush ute death

SOULMATES: A devastated Natalie Henderson said her boyfriend, champion archer Jake Collins, was her best friend whose energy was infectious - "he will be so sorely missed". Picture: Facebook.

SOULMATES: A devastated Natalie Henderson said her boyfriend, champion archer Jake Collins, was her best friend whose energy was infectious - "he will be so sorely missed". Picture: Facebook.

IT was just hours following the accident, and Clayton Curnow was being released by police after being charged with being drunk behind the wheel of a utility when his best mate, Jake Collins, fell from the roof and died.

The phone rang, and it was Jake’s devastated mother, Paula Southern, on the other end.

But this was not a woman intent on verballing the 31-year-old as the anger rose and reality set in that her 20-year-old son, a champion archer with Olympic aspirations, was lost forever.

No, this was possibly the ultimate act of forgiveness.

Ms Southern had already spoken to Clayton once – straight after the accident on Saturday night near the popular Myall Lakes camping grounds where the mates were supposed to be prawning and partying.

“I told him to come straight to me and we sat there and I held him,’’ said told Fairfax Media.

“I know he has [allegedly] done the wrong thing. He is the driver and that is the law.

“But he is a beautiful boy, he calls me Mum too, and I am shattered for him.

“I told him that I don’t know how I am going to ever get through this, but what Clayton will have to go through will be even tougher.’’

The men were travelling down Mungo Brush Road about 11pm on Saturday when they stopped to speak to another couple gathering firewood.

They decided to haul fallen tree into the tray of their Holden Rodeo themselves, and continued back to their camping ground.

But along the way, Jake climbed from the passenger seat to the roof in an attempt to stop the tree from falling.

It was not until Clayton received a phone call that he stopped to pass it onto his mate, who had disappeared.

His body was found on the side of the road. He could not be revived.

Clayton would allegedly register a mid-range blood alcohol level and was immediately charged with dangerous driving occasioning the death of his best mate.

HAPPIER TIMES: Jake Collins with his girlfriend Natalie Henderson, mother Paula Southern and sisters Louise and Laura.

HAPPIER TIMES: Jake Collins with his girlfriend Natalie Henderson, mother Paula Southern and sisters Louise and Laura.

“We don’t hold anything against him. They were two wild boys together,’’ Ms Southern said.

“Jake would always say he would rather be here for a good time than a long time.

“They fed off each other’s energy. They were best of mates.’’

Jake was a master archer, had won national titles, represented Australia and was named Singleton’s Young Achiever of the Year for his efforts.

He also loved his long-term girlfriend, Natalie Henderson.

“He was just a person whose energy was infectious,’’ Natalie told Fairfax Media.

“He was my soulmate and best friend. Such a friend to everyone and just an awesome person in general.’’

Jake, born in Singleton, is also survived by his grieving little sisters Louise, 18, and Laura, 16.

The family had always called Jake their “rock”.

A huge circle of friends gathered outside the family’s Singleton home on Sunday, when Ms Southern grabbed Clayton Curnow by the hand and took him out to see the rest of the mourners.

It was another act of forgiveness, this time publicly to help quell any animosity against the driver.

“The kids are absolutely shattered,’’ Ms Southern said.

“I told them to look at me, and never forget what they see.

“So next time they think of doing something stupid they might remember what we are going through.’’

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