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Tribute to rally tragedy woman

The father of a woman who died in a rally crash has paid tribute to his "lovable" daughter.

Emma Wilkinson, 46, of Brigstock, Northamptonshire, a mother of two, died in a car crash in Siberia while driving in a vintage rally with her partner Peter Davies.

Her father John Wilkinson, who lives in Desborough, Northamptonshire, with Emma's mother Pamela, said: "She was a very lovable person. She would help anybody. She was a real worker and had hundreds of friends. Everybody loved her."

Ms Wilkinson's brother Mark, who had also been taking part in the rally with their sibling Robert, said it was the first time his sister had taken part in an event like the rally. His sister and Mr Davies, who was uninjured in the crash, had been taking part "just for the fun of it and for the camaraderie", he said.

Mark Wilkinson, who also lives in Brigstock and has returned from the rally to be with his parents, said: "It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for her. She'd never done anything like it before and was keen to get involved when she saw Robert and I involved. They got across Mongolia and the difficult parts of the challenge. She just didn't have her guardian angel on the day." Describing his sister, Mr Wilkinson said: "She was the life and soul. Everybody loved her."

The retired Virgin stewardess, who has a teenage daughter and younger son from her first marriage, had been taking part in the the Peking (Beijing) to Paris Motor Challenge, described as the longest and toughest challenge anyone can drive in a vintage or classic car.

Ms Wilkinson, who separated from her husband in 2004, was killed in a head-on collision between her 1970 Chevrolet C10 and a Volkswagen Polo, on the Tyumen to Omsk federal highway on Wednesday, according to police in Siberia. She had been taking it in turns to drive with Mr Davies, who she had lived with in Brigstock.

A 31-year-old man and a baby who were passengers in the other vehicle were killed while a woman is in intensive care in hospital, Tyumen region police said. Officers believe the driver of the Polo may have fallen asleep at the wheel moments before careering across the road into the path of the oncoming Chevrolet as there were no skid marks and traffic was very light.

The 33-day race, which began on May 28, sees competitors travel through some of the most remote and inaccessible areas on the planet as they drive through the Gobi Desert, Mongolia and Russia Rally director Philip Young said: "Emma was a fun loving, lively and popular member of the rally. In the three weeks we've been together both she and Peter proved themselves to be capable, competent and resourceful. Their 1970 Chevrolet C10 pickup was a remarkable sight in the Mongolian wilderness and today our thoughts and sympathies are with Emma's family and friends including her two brothers Robert and Mark who are also participating."

Friends and former colleagues paid tribute to the "beautiful, funny, kind, amazing" mother of two. Debbie Baker wrote on Facebook: "Dear Emma. I never laughed so much with anyone as I did with you. Whether at Virgin, on our holidays or at parties. Such a beautiful, funny and talented lady. I will never forget you." Another friend, Susan Rodgers, described Ms Wilkinson as: "The loveliest and hilarious girl I ever had the pleasure of knowing. Just awful news... still in shock."

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