GONE TOO SOON: Family pays tribute to Luke Mauch
THE ominous, whirring sound of the LifeFlight helicopter caught the attention of Paul Mauch as he prepared for a hard day's work, and instantly he knew something was very wrong.
The cattle farmer looked skyward across the valley as the helicopter headed toward Yangan, then circled back to McMasters Rd, where it slowly lowered to the ground.
Immediately, he thought of his son Luke, and sent him a text to see if he was OK.
There was no response.
Luke Mauch and his girlfriend Izzy Hilton had just left the family home in Upper Freestone, where they had a typical family breakfast, filled with jokes and laughter.
Sister Jessica Mauch had "poured his tea wrong", while Izzy had the audacity to stir it with the "coffee spoon" and they all took the mickey out of each other.
"It was a good, happy breakfast," mother Karen Mauch said.
The couple left around 8am to rake hay on their property.
"When there was no reply I rang the neighbours, who said there'd been an incident," Paul said.
"I jumped in the ute. I had (son) Rory with me, but I left him at the shed because I didn't know, you know.
"The police met me at the corner of Old Freestone School Rd."
Izzy was flown to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in a critical condition, from which she later recovered.
"He was so young," Paul said.
Though Luke may be gone he lives on through the memories of those who loved him dearly.
His family describes him as a hardworking and caring young man, who loved life, the land and telling a good yarn.
Luke had grown from an adorable toddler, riding with his father in his tractor with Thomas the Tank Engine books in hand, to an avid agriculturalist who could teach Paul a thing or two about cattle breeding.
"He loved his cattle, he loved his farm, and he wanted to be a farmer one day, " Paul said.
"That was his goal.
"He loved the freedom of thinking for yourself, and doing what you wanted to do."
He was inspired by the valour of his veteran grandfather, even attempting to join the army, but was turned away due to an earlier eye injury.
But Luke never faltered, pushing onto his next goal, buying his own home, moving in with Izzy, and investing in livestock of his own.
"He was just … him," Karen said.
"He never pretended to be something he wasn't."
The shock death came in the midst of coronavirus restrictions, and the funeral was limited to just 20 attendees.
The outpouring of community love and support overwhelmed the online streaming service as hundreds tuned in to bid Luke a final farewell.
"The pain doesn't go away, but you get used to the feeling of the loss," Karen said.
"It's always there.
"It doesn't lessen.
"You just learn how to cope with it."
Luke is survived by parents Paul and Karen Mauch, brother Blake and his partner Bec, sister Jessica, brother Rory, and partner Izzy Hilton.