FORMER SPORTS STAR MOURNED
By HANNAH ROSS
DOMINIC Merlo's cheerful voice can still be heard when you call his mobile phone number.
"Hi, this is Dominic, thanks for calling. Please leave a message and I'll get back to you later."
If he were still alive, the 23-year-old Goonellabah man would have been taking calls from Amy, his girlfriend of five months, as they made plans for this weekend's move into a house together.
He would have been on the phone to his brothers Alex and Julian, chatting about the fun they had last weekend celebrating Julian's birthday.
He would no doubt have phoned his mum in Brisbane to tell her how his new car was going.
But Dominic's phone inevitably goes to voicemail now.
His family decided to keep his phone connected just so they could continue to hear the sound of his voice following his death in a road accident on Bangalow Road at Nashua on Tuesday.
Dominic was riding his motorbike from his home in Goonellabah to his job as an apprentice electrician in Mullumbimby when the accident occurred at 7.25am.
According to his mum, Caitlyn Brightmon, her son was this week due to take possession of a car he had bought and registered so he would no longer have to make the journey by motorbike.
The former Richmond River High student was 'beloved', according to his mum.
"He was loved by many and he loved so many. Those arms would wrap around everyone. It is a tragedy but we are trying to remember the fun and there was so much fun. He really loved life," she said.
Dominic's big brother Julian described him as 'a bloke' who swore a lot and liked a drink, but his school mates Bodhi Ireland and Kiwa Bell spoke of his more responsible side.
"He always looked out for you and made sure you were on the right track," Kiwa said.
From the age of 17, Dominic lived with his family at The Channon. The community adopted him and he put back by helping out with the monthly craft markets, getting involved with The Channon youth club and coaching Little Athletics at Dunoon. His sporting abilities earned him the Richmond River High sportsman of the year trophy in 2003.
The community came together yesterday to help paint Dominic's casket a bright shade of yellow, ready for those who loved him to graffiti their parting words.
His aunt, Jennifer Aubrey, said no-one ever had a bad word to say about Dominic.
"He was always for the underdog and was in essence a truly caring soul," she said.
"We are all grateful he died quickly. [This is a] tragic accident that will leave a significant mark on all our lives."
A gathering will be held in the village on Monday after his memorial service at Lismore Crematorium at 2pm.