The Hartlepool family of a man who died with his two young children in a car crash on a French motorway said their lives had been “torn apart” by the incident and “will never be the same again”.
John Crompton, 31, and his son Morgan Lund, nine, and daughter Evie-Lily Crompton, four, were killed in a crash on the A39 near Beaurepaire-en-Bresse, between Lyon and Dijon, shortly after 7am on Sunday.
Another son, Kyle, two, remains seriously ill in hospital, along with the children’s mother, Makayla Lund, 25.
A statement released on behalf of the family said: “A devastating tragedy has left our family heartbroken forever. Our lives have been torn apart and will never be the same again.
“We have lost the heart of our family. As a family we ask for our privacy to be respected at this extremely difficult time.”
Mr Crompton, who was popular in the local snooker scene, was driving and had to be cut from the wreckage of the family Nissan.
We have lost the heart of our family.
He suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after he was freed.
The two children who died are thought to have been thrown from the vehicle, which is reported to have hit a barrier.
Specially-trained police officers have been helping relatives and officers from Cleveland Police have been helping French authorities with their inquiries into the collision.
A fundraising page set up to support Ms Lund in the wake of the tragedy has raised around £4,000.
Laura Austwicke, who set up the appeal, urged people to pray for the family.
She wrote: “Makayla and John’s family would like to thank everyone for their continuing kind words and support. Please keep praying for Makayla and baby Kyle’s recovery.
“We are aware that there is another go fund me page set up in Euros, however we’d like to set up another page in the UK, for those wanting to donate in GBP.
“All proceeds raised are to help Makayla and her family who were involved in tragic car accident in France on Sunday, suffering the loss of John, Morgan and Evie-Lily.”
Ricky Doak wrote on the page: “Terrible news, I could not believe it was John and family involved in this accident.
“What a lovely guy, well-like(d) and respected. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
On Sunday Colin Harrison posted on a Facebook group called Hartlepool Billiards and Snooker, of which Mr Crompton was a member.
He said: “Heartbreaking news about one of the league’s top players. John Crompton and two of his children were tragically killed in a road accident in France earlier today.
“Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Very talented and well liked man. RIP mate.”
Jeff Dickson wrote on the club’s Facebook page: “Puts life into perspective when you see a lad like big John Crompton lose his life in a tragic accident like this.
“A man who held the same things in life close to his heart as I do. Family, Hartlepool United and a game of snooker and billiards with his mates down the club on a Monday and Wednesday night.
“So so sad this, just hope his missus and bairn pull through for him. God bless big guy. Pot a few long uns up there.”
TV pictures showed the badly mangled family car with debris strewn around the carriageway.
An investigator told the France3 TV channel the reason for the car hitting the barrier was as yet unknown, but it could have been caused by the driver falling asleep or being distracted.