Family, friends and staff paid tribute to their missing hero George Kotis at WetSide on Saturday night.
Family, friends and staff paid tribute to their missing hero George Kotis at WetSide on Saturday night. Nat Bromhead

Fraser legend dead in horror crash

IT WAS supposed to be a celebration of things to come but instead the Saturday night launch of George Kotis’s new restaurant turned into a tribute to his life.

The 60-year-old was killed instantly when his car smashed into a cattle truck near Maryborough on Saturday afternoon.

Since the early ’70s George had been making a name for himself in the Fraser Coast’s hospitality industry.

He had owned pubs in Maryborough, accommodation in Hervey Bay and, most recently, George’s Greek Restaurant at Kookaburra Backpackers.

On Friday night George welcomed almost 400 guests to his new restaurant at Hervey Bay’s WetSide waterpark where the light spectacular was shown for the first time.

The event proved so successful that George needed more supplies for part two of the grand opening weekend, to be held on Saturday night.

He drove to Maryborough to get the supplies himself.

He never made it home.

As guests arrived at the event on Saturday evening word slowly spread about the tragic accident but no one wanted to believe it.

Fraser Coast councillor David Dalgleish, who called George the “unofficial godfather” of his children, broke the news to the crowd.

In a moving tribute an emotional Mr Dalgleish, supported by staff from the restaurant and Wide Bay Water, told guests that the event had proceeded because it was “what George would have wanted”.

He congratulated the brave staff members who had pushed on and thanked them for “keeping George’s dream alive”.

Guests raised their glasses in a toast to the fallen restaurateur which was followed by a minute’s silence.

Yesterday Mr Dalgleish thanked the community for its support on behalf of George’s wife Hoyan.

“She is very appreciative of all the people who have shown their support to her and particularly the staff who are keeping George’s dream alive,” Mr Dalgleish said.

Wide Bay Water Communications manager Christina Maynes said George had put his “heart and soul” into the restaurant and had often worked night and day to make it a success.

“For this tragic accident to occur during a grand opening weekend is simply heart-wrenching,” Ms Maynes said.

“All of us at Wide Bay Water, and especially our staff at WetSide, are deeply saddened at his passing.”

Ms Maynes described the efforts put in by the restaurant’s staff on Saturday night as “inspirational”.

“Heavy hearts made of gold,” she said.

“They didn’t want his wife Hoyan to be left with the complications of a cancelled event.”

The accident happened on the Bruce Highway, about 10km west of Maryborough, just after 2pm.

Five vehicles were involved in the crash.

Three other people were taken to Maryborough Hospital with minor injuries but were later released.

Traffic was diverted in both directions until 7.30pm.

Funeral details are expected to be released later this week.

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