Shock over death in Africa

SHOCKED friends of an Ipswich man killed in an horrific crash while on holiday in South Africa today paid tribute to a “top guy” who will be greatly missed.

SHOCKED friends of an Ipswich man killed in an horrific crash while on holiday in South Africa today paid tribute to a “top guy” who will be greatly missed.

Financial advisor Michael Cole, 48, of Acacia Close at Warren Heath, was travelling in a minibus when it left the road and overturned several times.

He and a friend - who were on a two week trip Christmas and New Year trip - had been en route from their hotel in Sun City to Johannesburg airport, where they were taking a flight to Kruger National Park.

Doug Pearson, a manager at Co-operative Insurance Services (CIS), where Mr Cole worked for 16 years until last summer when he left to set up his own business, said everyone was very shocked.

“Michael was a top guy and everyone who knew him really liked him,” said Mr Pearson, who trained him when he first joined the company in 1991.

“He was extremely popular with his customers and all his work colleagues. He was larger than life.

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“I had lunch with him just before Christmas and it's a huge shock to think he is gone. He will be greatly missed.”

One of Mr Cole's neighbours, who did not want to be named, said: “He was a wonderful man. He loved his holidays.

“I spoke to him a week before he went to South Africa. He wasn't sure if he should put his Christmas decorations up. Normally he put lots up and we called the house Santa's Grotto! He didn't put any up this year in the end.”

Mr Cole's partner of 21 years, Gina Warren, 49, described the moment she found out about Mr Cole's death: “I was just in total disbelief and shock. I felt numb and could not believe what I was being told.

“You do not expect someone to go off on holiday and then receive a phone call to say that they have been killed. It is hard to believe even now. He has always been there and it is difficult to know that he is not going to be anymore. At the moment it is like he is on an extended holiday.”

Mr Cole, who leaves behind two brothers and a sister, was an extensive traveller, having visited the USA, Caribbean, Far East, Canada, Dubai and Egypt.

“He was very fun loving and had a great sense of humour. One of his colleagues was saying that he would walk into the office and he would know that Mike was in the room because he would hear him laughing,” said Ms Warren.

The details into how the minibus driver lost control of the vehicle are now being investigated. The driver is critically ill in hospital.

The funeral will take place on January 18 at Ipswich Crematorium at 10.15pm.

Pay your tributes to Michael Cole - write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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