A YOUNG ex-pat died after the pick-up truck he was driving crashed into a lamppost near his home in Texas.
Former Hartlepool man Matthew Kearns, 20, was pronounced dead at the scene and his teenage brother Alex suffered a fractured pelvis.
The tragedy happened just weeks after the college student had celebrated his birthday by ringing relatives back home to tell them how much he loved them.
His devastated aunt Karen Close told the Mail: “He was so full of life - at 20-year-old it’s not right.”
Matthew and Alex, both former Sacred Heart RC Primary School pupils, moved from Hartlepool to America in June 2005 along with their mum, Michelle Bailey and her husband Peter after he found engineering work with BP.
Relatives in town have been left reeling by news of ex-English Martyrs student Matthew’s death, which happened around 5am on Saturday.
His aunt, Karen Close, 54, from Hartlepool, was today preparing to fly out to Texas for her nephew’s funeral, along with her son Jacob Close, 16, and Matthew’s childhood friend Joe Cooper.
Speaking from her home in the Throston area of town, Karen, who works for Anglian Water, said: “It happened not far from where they lived.
“They had been staying at a friend’s house overnight and were on their way back home.
“There was nobody else involved, we don’t know how it happened and the police are still investigating.
“I have spoken to Michelle daily and she’s just devastated, but trying to stay strong for Alex.”
The incident happened around 11am (BST) and Karen described the moment Peter rang her to tell her about the tragedy.
She said: “I instantly knew something was wrong because Michelle always rings me weekly - we get into a routine.
“It’s absolutely devastating.
“His name means gift from God and that’s what he was.
“He was so full of life - at 20-years-old it’s not right.
“We were really close and it was his birthday earlier this month.
“He rang me up and said ‘love you’ - the night before he died he wrote on my facebook page ‘love you doll’, that’s the sort of person he was.
“The family came home at Christmas and everyone was saying what fine young men Matthew and Alex had turned into.”
Matthew, who had played for the Greatham and St Francis boys teams in Hartlepool, had been head-hunted for the Varsity football team in America.
The grandson of the late billiard player Bob Close, he had hoped for a career in music and was due to perform his show – MC In Da UK – this Friday.