Tributes have been paid to an opera singer and a 19-year-old musician and animal management expert – both from Heathfield – who tragically died following a road crash on the B2012 near Cross-in-Hand last Tuesday.
Former Heathfield Community College student Jessica Christie-Sturges of Wayside Walk died at the scene and Robert Poulton, 55 of Lime Way died from cardiac failure after being taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
Jess’s family paid tribute to ‘a fun-loving girl who touched the hearts of so many.’ They went on: “Jess was born in Sanderstead, Surrey and moved to Heathfield in 2004. She was a keen dancer and won many trophies for Irish dancing. She enjoyed travelling the world on many holidays and was a member of the East Sussex Woodwind orchestra where she played the flute, Grade Five. She was a member of the school netball team and a prefect. At weekends she worked at Patisserie Valentin on heathfield High Street and at Martlets Cattery, Hailsham.
“After completing her GCSEs and AS levels she attended Plumpton Agricultural College where she studed for an Extended National Diploma in Animal Management, for which she achieved the highest possible grade, Distinction Plus, putting her in the top five students for her year.
“Jess’s lifelone calling to her love of animals led her to do volunteer work for Marine Conservation in Tenerife. This led to her working full time at Pets Corner, Uckfield and Tunbridge Wells.
“As a family we are totally devastated. Her death has not only affected us but also the friends and colleagues that she had. We would like to thank all those who have Facebooked and sent cards, all of whom comment on her beauty, kindness and amazing smile.”
The other victim was operatic baritone Robert Poulton 55 of Lime Way. Robert was taking the role of the gamekeeper in the Glyndebourne Tour’s Rusalka. The day after his death, the Tour cancelled a Norwich performance in his honour.
Robert began his professional career in the Glyndebourne chorus and had subsequently performed central roles in both the Festival and the Tour as well as having a distinguished career at many leading international opera houses.
Director Dave Pickard said: “The news of Robert’s death is devastating for his family – and for all of us at Glyndebourne who have so valued him over many years. It is testament to Robert’s generous character and amazing musicianship that he has such a distinguished operatic career. Our thoughts at this time are with Robert’s family, to whom we extend our deepest sympathy.”