THE heartbroken family of a young soldier who died in a car crash at the weekend paid tribute to her tonight (Wednesday, February 5), as hundreds of people came together to pay their respects.

About 250 people gathered outside the family home of 20-year-old Private Codie Richardson in Norton, Stockton, for a parade and to release balloons and lanterns in her memory.

Royal Dragoon Guard Pte Richardson died in a car crash at Catterick Garrison alongside friend, Trooper Mark McKeen, on Saturday after Trooper McKeen’s Seat Ibiza left the road and collided with a tree.

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As the friends, family and people from across the area gathered, Pte Richardson’s mother, Carol Muir said: “It’s unbelievable. I just didn’t realise the extent of how well she was liked and loved by so many people. I’m so proud, just so proud, of her.”

The Northern Echo:

Pte Richardson’s older sister, Colleen said: “She was a smiley girl and always thought of others, not herself. If you were down, she’d do what it took to make you smile.”

Pte Richardson’s stepfather, Gary Muir, said she had had to work extra hard on her shooting in the Army and, after months of effort, had to start from the beginning again because she was a week behind.

He said: “I was proud of her for that. A lot of people would have said, ‘to hell with you,’ but she just got on with it.

"Codie’s two-year-old niece is very poorly and has had chemo for bone marrow problems.

"Codie was up at the weekend to offer support to her and had been raising money for her. When I nearly lost my finger, Codie came all the way up from London to make sure I was okay. She was a family person.”

Mr Muir was also overwhelmed by the support from the community and Teesside Cars, for whom he works as a taxi-driver, the catering team at Middlesbrough FC where Pte Richardson used to work and hundreds of messages of condolence on Facebook and in the street.

The family have also met with Trooper McKeen’s devastated parents in Catterick.

Outside the family home about 250 people, some wearing RIP Codie T-shirts, carried balloons and lanterns through the wind and rain to a nearby recreation ground, off Norton Avenue.

The Northern Echo:

The family, including Pte Richardson’s five sisters, released the first lantern.