Gunnedah’s Eli Kelly is being remembered as a “one-of-a-kind” bloke who poured “110 per cent” into life’s pursuits.

The young fitter and machinist was tragically killed last week while working at Gold Fields’ St Ives mine in Western Australia.

Eli, aged just 21, was living in Gunnedah but working with Stripes Engineering at the interstate mine site.

WorkSafe and Western Australia Police are investigating the circumstances of the incident.

Stripes Engineering director and Gunnedah mayor Jamie Chaffey travelled to Western Australia last week following the incident.

He said the entire Stripes team is mourning the loss of a friend and colleague.

“We are devastated by the death of our friend and workmate,” Mr Chaffey said.

“We offer our deepest condolences to Eli’s family and friends.

“Eli was a wonderful young man, as well as a highly valued member of our team and the close-knit Gunnedah community, where we all live.

“I flew to Western Australia on Wednesday, following the tragedy, before returning back to Gunnedah (last) Thursday with Eli’s workmates from the site.

“We are mourning and want to see all questions over this incident answered. We are providing every assistance to the police and WorkSafe investigators and cannot provide further details at this time due to these ongoing investigations.

“Our entire team is heartbroken. Our heartfelt support goes out to Eli’s family, friends, work colleagues and their families.”

Blake, Ethan and Eli Kelly at Eli’s 21st birthday party. Photos supplied by the Kelly family.

Growing up in Gunnedah, Eli was a keen clay target shooter and whip cracking competitor.

Close mentor and fellow Gunnedah whip cracker Steve Wicks was this week still coming to terms with Eli’s death.

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” he said.

“He was one of the best kids you’d meet.

“He was a top tradesman … gave 110 per cent to his job … was very well respected in his trade.”

Mr Wicks described Eli as excellent in his “craftmanship” with ability beyond his years.

“His technical skill was way above his age,” he said.

Eli showed maturity from an early age and led from the front in more ways than one.

“He was a born leader … and good at anything he tried,” Mr Wicks said.

“He was very giving too – he was always one of the first to jump in and show people what to do.”

Mr Wicks said young Eli had much confidence around girls too and recalled one the youngster’s first visits to the Deniliquin Ute Muster.

“I remember he would have been about 12 years old at the time,” Mr Wicks said.

“Eli went up to these young ladies who would have been in their 20s and said ‘here’s my mobile number’.

“I’ll never forget that.”

In a statement provided to the Gunnedah Times, the Kelly family said Eli was born in Gunnedah and went to St Xavier’s Primary School and then to William Cowper in Tamworth where he completed Year 12. While at high school Eli worked for Chaffeys Mower Clinic and McDonalds, Gunnedah.

“Upon leaving school he gained a fitter and machinist apprenticeship at Stripes Engineering Services where he recently finished his trade,” the family statement said.

“As a young child, Eli was introduced to the art of whip cracking by the Wicks Family. At the age of six, he became an Australian Whip Cracking Champion. He also volunteered at Gunnedah

Junior Rugby League and in later years has become a volunteer fire fighter for Gunnedah RFS responding to many fires and car accidents. Eli has always loved to help people.

Eli Kelly, with girlfriend Lydia, mum Alison and dad Scott. Photos supplied by the Kelly family.

“Eli also had a passion for machinery and could turn his hand at operating most. He was an old soul who always loved retro things. In 2022 he purchased a 1976 ski boat which he restored. He loved riding motorbikes, water skiing and camping.

“Eli met his girlfriend, Lydia while at school in Year 11 and they very quickly became the most beautiful couple. Over the last five years it has been an honour to watch their relationship grow and for us to have Lydia as a part of the family.

“Eli’s death has had a huge impact on our family and friends, and his happy smiling face and personality will be missed by not only us and Lydia but by his many friends and workmates.

“We have been overwhelmed by the messages, texts, phone calls and visits that we have had from everybody that has known or loved Eli.

“Eli is survived by his parents Scott and Alison Kelly, brothers Ethan and Blake and his beautiful Lydia Higgins.”

To order photos from this page click here