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It's Friday afternoon in the unassuming town of Grenfell, west of Sydney, and a group of friends and family are coming together for a drink and a chat.
The Esky is full. The hugs are warm. The vibe is peaceful. It's the sort of get-together 27-year-old Ethan Hunter would have loved.
Those gathered at Grenfell's cemetery have come to share photos and memories of Ethan, after he was killed in a railway crossing accident earlier this year.
Maddie Bott with family and friends at the cemetery. (ABC News: Jerry Rickard)"There's just no words good enough for the person Ethan was," fiancé Maddie Bott says.
"He would do anything for anyone ... he was so beautiful.
"I miss him so much ... life will never ever be the same without him here."
Ethan Hunter and Maddie Bott.(ABC News: Tom Hancock)Maddie and Ethan were due to marry in March and looked forward to starting a family.
In February, a freight train slammed into the truck Ethan was driving with 50-year-old workmate Mark Fenton as they crossed between farms, killing them both.
The crossing has no lights or boom gates — just a stop sign with the message "look for trains" — like most of Australia's 23,000 rail crossings.
A collection of photos of Ethan Hunter compiled by friends.(ABC News: Tom Hancock)Maddie often visits the gravesite after work to say g'day to her partner of eight years.
As dusk falls, this is everyone else's chance to have one final beer with him.
Ethan's best friend twists open a lager and drives the bottle into the soil, as friends pin photos to a board to be erected at the crash site.
A friend placed a bottle of beer in the ground at Ethan Hunter's grave.(ABC News: Jerry Rickard)"Cheers, to Ethan," they toast at quarter past five — the time of the crash.
"He still drinks as slow as ever," quips a mate.
Campaigning for change
The crossing where Ethan Hunter was killed has no lights or boom gates.(ABC News: Jerry Rickard)Ethan and Mark's deaths were among three level crossings fatalities nationally during the year to June, according to the rail safety regulator.
Over the past five years, there have been on average three deaths and one serious injury at crossings annually from 38 collisions.
"I went out to the crossing two days after Ethan had died, and I was absolutely horrified that these are our level crossings," Maddie says.
"They're obstructed with vegetation and the gradients are hazardous in themselves.
"It's just not good enough in 2021.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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