The small Port Stephens community of Karuah is "a sadder place" after a horrific crash that claimed the lives of two well-known men, the chief of the town's RSL club says.
Graeme Parker and Reg Cowling died in tragic circumstances on Tuesday after the car they were travelling in was involved in a collision with a truck on the Pacific Highway north of Raymond Terrace.
Both men, aged in their 70s, were Royal Australian Air Force veterans who were on their way home after a meeting at Stockton to organise a reunion for ex-service men and women when the crash occurred.
Mr Parker was a long-serving president and life member of Karuah RSL Club, who had taken up the vice president role about four years ago. Mr Cowling, who lived at North Arm Cove, was a former board member of the organisation.
Club CEO Ross Parr paid tribute to the men on Thursday, describing them as community-minded and "highly thought-of".
"The town is a sadder place for not having those two gentlemen in town," Mr Parr told the Newcastle Herald.
"It's a massive loss for the community.
"There's never been a bad word said about them."
Read more: Two men die in crash at Ferodale
Mr Parr said he was particularly close with Mr Parker, who gave him a job at the club eight years ago during his tenure as president.
He said Mr Parker was well known in the community and was involved in Veterans Affairs, Anzac Day services - particularly for school students - and entertained children as Santa Claus year after year.
Emergency crews were called to the Pacific Highway at Ferodale, near Medowie Road, at about 11.30am on Tuesday after reports of a major crash.
The Herald understands the sedan carrying Mr Parker and Mr Cowling was struck on the side by a truck that was travelling south along the highway.
The force of the crash pushed the car into the north-bound lanes.
Four paramedic crews, police, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Rural Fire Service and State Emergency Service personnel were all called to the scene.
However, the men could not be saved.
At least one other car suffered minor damage during the crash, in which the truck jackknifed through a median strip and smashed into a concrete barrier on the opposite side of the road.
Read more: Police and court news
The truck driver was not injured during the incident, which closed both south-bound lanes of the highway for about six hours.
He was taken to hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing.
Peter Fidden, Karuah RSL Club's chairman of the board and RSL Sub-branch president, said on Thursday he had known Mr Parker for close to 20 years and met Mr Cowling about eight years ago.
He said he counted the pair among his close friends.
"They were both long-term airforce people and were well-liked blokes in the community," Mr Fidden told the Herald.
"They were always looking after everybody, they were both top people."
Mr Fidden said Mr Cowling lived alone since his wife passed away a few years ago.
He said the RSL Sub-branch was now focusing on looking after Mr Parker's wife.
Funeral plans for the men were still taking shape as of Thursday afternoon.
Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash and will prepare a report for the coroner regarding the deaths of Mr Parker and Mr Cowling.
The tragic incident was the latest in a string of fatal crashes so far this year.
As the Herald reported earlier this week, four people have died on the region's roads in recent months, including a man on Medowie Road in January - near Tuesday's fatal collision.
Another man died in a single vehicle crash at Morisset in February and two motorcycle riders were involved in separate fatal incidents on roads in the Upper Hunter - at Singleton and Whittingham - within 24 hours last month.