THE Lower Clarence community is mourning the tragic death of a promising young cadet engineer who was "everyone's mate".
Michele Cervella, a 23-year-old from Mororo, died from injuries sustained in a car crash in Spain last week.
Prior to moving to New Zealand recently to work as a cadet marine engineer, he was a shipbuilder at the Harwood Slipway, where his father is the company's general manager and director.
Harwood Slipway managing director Ross Roberts said news of his death was felt as a devastating blow to the company and the wider community.
"We have lost one of our own, who trained from a young age as a shipbuilder and boilermaker and was highly respected and loved by all who knew and worked with him," Mr Roberts said.
"Only recently Michele had decided to follow his brother Matteo and join the life at sea as a cadet Marine Engineer on a large cruise ship. Both sons were following in the footsteps of their father Gio to one day be the ship's chief engineer, like their father had done prior to settling in the Clarence Valley in the early 90s.
"These last eight months have been some of the best times of Michele's short life and the last few months he has been living his dream and (parents) Nicola and Gio have never seen him so happy."
The Maclean High graduate was also well known for his sporting skills in rugby union, and on Saturday morning Chris Douglas, father of Rugby World Cup play Kane Douglas, told Mr Roberts he was easy to coach and not afraid to take on any challenge.
Former Yamba Buccaneers coach Tim Gooley, who met Michele when he moved into the senior competition in 2011, described the breakaway forward as one of the best young men he had worked with.
"He was always one of the first to training and the last to leave, and always had a smile on his face," he said.
"He always led by example and he wasn't the biggest guy but he played above himself all the time. Everything he did was 100% whether it was training or playing.
"He is going to be missed by all of the boys."
School friend Daniel Kilroy said Michele was friends with everyone.
"Pretty much anyone you ask who knew him has a story about him," he said.
"He was always a character."
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