Devastated colleagues of an ever smiling, popular young pub worker tragically killed in a road crash have paid a moving tribute to her, saying life “won’t be the same without her”.
Since then there has been an outpouring of emotional tributes to the 22-year-old on social media, who was well-known in the village where she lived and worked in the kitchen at The Bell Inn, at nearby Middleton, since leaving school.
Amy Whitelock, who runs the venue with Julian Wallis, said what had happened had caused “total shock” at the pub and in the wider area because of how well-regarded Miss Oakes was – but that the area’s strong community spirit means neighbours and colleagues are rallying round to support each other.
She said Miss Oakes had “blossomed” in recent months, progressing to cooking the pub’s full menu.
Miss Oakes had such a “belief in herself” that she had the makings of a great chef should she have chosen that career path, Ms Whitelock said.
“Whatever Charlotte put her mind to do, she would’ve achieved,” she added.
“She was just happy with her life.
“We’re absolutely devastated. It is so, so sad. She was this pub. She was a ray of sunshine.”
Ms Whitelock said Miss Oakes’ death is having a “massive impact” across the three pubs she and Mr Wallis run, which also include the White Horse Inn at Westleton and The Eel’s Foot Inn at Eastbridge. Members of staff at all three pubs work closely together.
The woman driving the car Miss Oakes was travelling in, who was also injured and was airlifted to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for treatment, also worked at The Bell Inn.
“She came to work and socialised predominantly with the people she worked with,” Ms Whitelock said of Miss Oakes.
“She liked the simple life and she was happy with that.
“She had a love for life. I’ve never seen her do anything apart from smile. No-one has got anything negative to say about her. She really didn’t deserve this. It won’t be the same without her.
“She touched so many people’s lives. The customers all knew Charlotte and she would enjoy banter with the customers.
“The community in Middleton is in shock, total shock – but we are coming together. Middleton is like that.
“We’re just having to keep going but it is very, very difficult at the moment.”
The man driving the Isuzu in the crash suffered minor cuts and bruises.
Police are appealing for anyone with information about the incident to come forward.
Witnesses of the collision or those with dash cam footage should contact Suffolk Constabulary’s serious collision investigation team on 101, quoting CAD 371 of October 18.