A road trip to spend New Year's Eve in Queensland has left two young footballers dead, another fighting for his life and two others injured, and five families in Melbourne's west reeling with grief.
On Saturday afternoon, Jesse Edwards posted on Facebook "roadtrip :)" as the 19-year-old Werribee teen and four of his mates headed for a New Year's Eve in Queensland.
The five 19-year-olds – who all played football for local clubs in Werribee and Hoppers Crossing – were driving to the Gold Coast to celebrate New Year's Eve together.
They never made it.
Less than 12 hours later, the 19-year-old would be dead, along with his friend Brandon Christopoulos, in a horrific car crash that left three of their friends seriously injured.
Their car came off the Newell Highway and struck a tree near Narrabri just west of Tamworth in northern NSW just before 6am on Sunday.
A third young man, Damien McKenzie was airlifted to hospital in a critical condition, and underwent surgery on Monday after suffering life-threatening internal injuries.
Mitchell Post and Adam Syme were both taken to hospital but were due to return to Melbourne.
The road trip was supposed to be a chance to relive their schoolies trip to the Gold Coast last year.
"They had the time of their lives last year and wanted to tick it off one last time," Jesse's older brother Corey Edwards said.
One of five in a close-knit family from Werribee, Jesse played football at the Glen Orden Hawks Football Club with his brothers Corey and Michael and his father Darren, who in August played their first game together for the Glen Orden reserves side.
A former Werribee Secondary College Student, Jesse had just finished his first year of a commerce degree at Deakin University. He also played cricket and coached his little brother's under 12s football team.
For the Edwards family, the tragedy still seemed surreal.
"It definitely hasn't sunk in," Corey Edwards said. "You just don't want to believe it."
He described his brother as "genuine" to a fault. "He treated everyone the way that they deserved to be treated."
Brandon Christopoulos, also from Werribee, was the youngest in a family of five and the only son.
Just before Christmas, Brandon had been accepted into an apprenticeship to fulfil his dream of becoming a carpenter after finish school at Thomas Carr College.
His eldest sister Rhiannon Stephens said the family were still in shock.
"I think we still feel that he's just away, and that any minute he's just going to walk through the door," she said.
One of his football clubs, the Hoppers Cross Warriors, remembered Brandon, nicknamed "Chicky", as a "cheeky guy with sublime skills in front of the big sticks".
He was remembered also as kind-hearted and funny.
"He would not say a bad word about anybody," Ms Stephens said.
"Regardless of what was going on, he just turned everything into a joke so people would laugh and smile with him."
A naturally gifted footballer who had played since the age of eight, Brandon also loved fashion, music and most of all his friends.
"He just loved being with his mates," she said.
One family friend wrote that she would remember Brandon for his "beautiful smile and that cheeky grin".
"You saw good in everybody," she wrote.
The flag of the Glen Orden Hawks, where three of the boys played in the under-18s premiership side, flew at half mast as hundreds gathered on Monday for an impromptu memorial, leaving tributes, flowers and football jerseys.
"We had a little shrine for the two boys. With two hours notice, there were 200 people rocked up, kicking the footy around and sharing memories. It was good to see," Corey Edwards said.
Glen Orden Club President Ken Parker said the club was providing counselling to those affected.
"It has hit the whole community very hard," he said.
On Facebook, hundreds expressed outpourings of shock and loss as the news of the tragedy rocked the football communities in the western suburbs.
A crowdfunding campaign to support the Edwards family has already raised nearly $9000.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner John Hartley said fatigue was believed to have been a factor as the teenagers had been taking turns at the wheel.
"The fourth driver in the sequence had been driving for two hours, obviously fell asleep fatigued, rolled the vehicle and killed himself and the other passenger in the front seat," he said.
The deaths come just days before two teenage boys died in a fiery crash in Altona on Tuesday night.
The deaths bring the national road toll for the holiday season to 25.