Bubbly Maria, aged just 14, had touched the hearts of many
IN JUST two years at Bonalbo Central School, Maria Connors touched the hearts and lives of many - and she will not be forgotten.
The bubbly 14-year-old died on August 9 when she was trapped in a house fire at a relative's home at Toomelah, near Boggabilla, on the Queensland border.
Two relatives aged three and five escaped the fire.
Her parents were nearby when the blaze, which police believe may have been started by an electric bar heater, broke out about 1.30am.
Named after her grandmother, Maria became known as Bubbaria to her family and close friends.
Mr Connors said his daughter excelled at sport and enjoyed running, netball, basketball and touch football.
"Maria was a lovely girl who was friendly, outgoing, popular and one of a kind," he said.
A gifted athlete, Mr Connors said Maria aspired to become a professional runner.
"She loved her sport and really enjoyed running. She hoped she could do it as a career."
Maria was laid to rest in a moving ceremony at Toomelah on August 30.
Family and friends travelled from as far as Broome in Western Australia and from all over NSW to pay their respects.
Bonalbo Central School relieving principal Trevor Hodges said Maria, who moved from Toomelah in 2011, was a well-liked student who was sorely missed.
"When the students found out they were very upset," Mr Hodges said.
"They put up pictures of her as tributes around the school and dealt with their loss really well."
Mr Hodges said the school raised money for the family.
A memorial ceremony will be held at the school next term, when a plaque honouring her will be unveiled.
Her memory will live on with parents Michael and Anna, eight brothers, four sisters and extended family.