Candles lit for lost ‘country gentleman’
BLACKWATER residents united to pay their respects to a "country gentleman" and a loved community man in what Nathan Turner's fiancee called "an overwhelming and beautiful" display of affection.
Questions and virus controversy were momentarily forgotten last night as Blackwater paused at 6pm to remember Mr Turner - who died tragically on Tuesday night.
Candles burned in driveways across the entire Central Highlands as a community united to remember a friend, a fiancee and son.
It was beautiful, unexpected and quite literally a light in the darkness for Mr Turner's fiancee Simone Devon.
Mourning in isolation, Ms Devon and her family were "blown away" by the community's love and support.
"We are overwhelmed and very grateful," Simone's mother Lorraine told The Courier-Mail. "We never expected this."
An undercurrent of coronavirus fear had spread through Blackwater following confusion about the cause of Mr Turner's death.
But compassion trumped controversy, according to vigil organiser Annette Boase, who said Blackwater's sense of community was second to none.
"I didn't know Simone or (Nathan) but I wanted her to know we're thinking of her," she said. "She's in isolation and she's just lost her partner."
"We're doing this for her and for Nathan's family so they know they're not really alone. It won't be any easier on her but she'll know that we care and that we're behind her."
Ms Devon said she and her family would join the vigil themselves - illuminating their front porch to remember a loved one.
Across Blackwater the community came together, including Devon Family friend Lyle Gibson
"We all feel terrible," Mr Gibson said. "I've shared my words… but putting those candles out is a way (for us) to remember a friend."
Queensland Health is yet to reveal the exact cause of Mr Turner's death, however Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young on Wednesday confirmed the 30-year-old man had tested positive to COVID-19 post mortem.
It was "tragic" news that Central Highlands Mayor Kerry Hayes previously told The Courier-Mail had shocked the town.
Yesterday Mr Hayes called a disaster management meeting of the regional council to discuss plans.
Queensland Health also established a coronavirus fever clinic at the Blackwater rodeo grounds.
A Queensland Health spokesperson said that 74 bookings were made before the clinic began testing.
Among them was Blackwater resident Leigha Manson who, along with her partner, booked the test on Wednesday night as a precaution.
The Courier-Mail observed a queue of cars gathered for the opening of the clinic yesterday morning.
"There's a definite fear around… a lot of people are worried," Blackwater resident Trevor Lang said passing through the clinic.
Mr Lang said news of Mr Turner's death had certainly affected the town.
"Being a young fellow, it knocked the community around a bit," he said.
Despite distancing and staying isolated since the pandemic broke, Mr Lang said he was getting tested "because I didn't want to take the risk".
Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said the test would provide some peace of mind.
"It's a shock," he said. "This was the first case we've had and it's someone so young."
A steady trail of cars continued through the clinic yesterday as police and officials stood guard.
By the day's end, 212 tests had been conducted in Blackwater alone.
Meanwhile, Pharmacy Essentials Blackwater was bombarded with customers "buying hand sanitiser, face masks" and stocking up on medication amid "a confusion of information".
Pharmacy assistant Annie Gowdy said the pharmacy was "eerily quiet after the news broke (on Wednesday)."
"I think it took everyone a while to process things," she said. But business hit a spike yesterday with Ms Gowdy saying the pharmacy "had to be strict with limits."
In Woolworths, shelves had been stripped of hand sanitiser, while stocks of flour, sugar and toilet paper were miserly.
"They saw a bit of panic in Woolworths on Wednesday," Ms Gowdy said.
That continued yesterday, with The Courier-Mail observing packed checkouts and busy aisles.
Around the shopping centre social distancing reminders were placed on walls.
Even those flying into Blackwater yesterday were warned of COVID concerns, and were reassured by stewardesses of the aircraft's rigorous cleaning procedures.
But last night, panic turned to empathy across Blackwater. Worry waned and residents "calmed down" in remembrance.
Every person mentioned in this article said they would light a candle to remember Mr Turner.
Originally published as Candles lit for lost 'country gentleman'