Sister's grief still raw four years on
FOUR years have passed but the pain of losing her sister in a car crash hasn't faded from Jessica Phelps's heart and mind.
Simone Ready, 16, was killed on September 8, 2009, when a car being driven by Rikki Maree English, described as Simone's best friend, smashed into a power pole by the side of the Warrego Hwy at Hatton Vale.
Simone had only given birth to her baby boy Tyler eight months before she died.
Jessica said the trauma of hearing of her sister's death was made worse by being so far away when it happened.
"It's been four years on Sunday and that pain doesn't go away," Jessica said.
"When Simone died I was in Sydney. Deanna, the woman who was looking after Tyler, called and told me about it.
"The police didn't even come and tell us. As a family, we all got together at our Nan's house in Newcastle and my mum and my auntie went to Queensland and I was there for one of the court hearings in December, just before the floods."
Simone moved to Queensland when she was 14 to be with her boyfriend Chris and soon after the move, Simone discovered she was pregnant.
Jessica said that growing up, Simone was a bubbly bright girl who enjoyed school holidays at their Nan's place with her and sister Taylah.
"We were all close growing up. She was a good sister. She had a mind of her own," Jessica said.
"I mean, we had a hard upbringing but we all made the best of it.
"The times we all spent together will never be replaced, times we will never have again due to her being taken from us.
"The empty feeling we feel is something we shouldn't have to feel. The emptiness of losing a loved one - a mother, sister, daughter, cousin and friend. Each and every one of us feels different.
"It doesn't get easier. We just learn how to live with it each day and every year that marks another year without Simone is harder than the last."
Jessica said each year she and her family gathered at Simone's grave to celebrate her life.
"We as a family will be meeting at the cemetery where Simone is buried. We have cake to celebrate the time she had with us and will release balloons in Simone's favourite colour, green," Jessica said.
She said she and her family were upset to hear Rikki Maree English only served eight months in jail after being sentenced to two and a half years for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.
"Her boy growing up without his mum is not something I would wish on my worst enemy," she said.
"We were not at all happy with the jail sentence that Rikki got. She was taken so suddenly that none of her family got to say goodbye."