The grieving family of a “beautiful” mum who died in a crash on the M66 say “life has stood still”.
Natalie Doherty, 33, lost control of her vehicle on the motorway near Bury on Saturday afternoon.
She had just joined the road when her car hit floodwater, aquaplaned, left the carriageway and crashed into a tree.
Tragically, she was pronounced dead at the scene, leaving behind her six-year-old son Bobby.
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, family members have said it “doesn’t feel real”.
“She hasn’t lived her life,” they said, heartbroken.
Last night, Natalie’s mother, Marion Mckenzie, lay awake clutching a photo of her only child.
The family said they “just knew” something was wrong when they didn’t hear from her for several hours.
Then, at 6.30pm, they received a phone call that would change their lives forever.
Speaking to the MEN, Marion described the moment she found out her daughter had died.
The 55-year-old became emotional as she said: “I screamed and Bobby said, ‘What’s wrong with nana?’
“We told him I had stubbed my toe.
“Then Bobby sat on his bed with his McDonald’s watching telly.
“This morning, I realised we will never see her again.
“We will never speak to her.
“You just think to yourself, why did she have to go? Why didn’t she just stay at home? Why didn’t they go in the van?
“But you could question everything.”
Her inconsolable family have since come together to pay tribute to the “stunning” mum-of-one, who they say had a “heart of gold”.
“Life has been horrendous. It’s like life has stood still,” Marion’s partner, Andrea Mckenzie, said.
“Time has stopped and it’s not real.
“I can’t imagine what Marion is going through. It’s her only child.
“She hasn’t lived her life. She hasn’t lived her life with Bobby – and you should never have to bury your own children.
“Marion just lay there with tears streaming down her face. She didn’t even shut her eyes.
“She just had a picture of Natalie and herself in her hands, clutching it, and there’s nothing I can do.”
Natalie had grown up in Haslingden in Rossendale but lived in Crawshawbooth near Rawtenstall at the time of her death.
She had attended secondary school in Rochdale before going on to work as a dental nurse for 16 years, her latest job being a receptionist at a dental practice.
Her family say she loved food, shopping and visiting beauty salons, but most of all being a mother to her young son.
Bobby was meant to be travelling in the car with Natalie at the time of the crash but wanted to stay at his grandmother’s house instead.
Andrea continued: “He’s six – his dad told him mummy is an angel and that god only takes the good angels.
“I’ve never seen a bond like the bond with her and Bobby; they were absolutely inseparable.
“She said she would pick Bobby up but he wanted to stay with his nana, thank God.
“We didn’t hear anything because she usually rings to FaceTime with Bobby.
“We didn’t hear anything and we just knew.
“It got to 6pm and we knew something wasn’t quite right. At 6.30pm we got the phone call.”
Natalie’s cousin, Debra Wainwright, described her passing as a “massive loss”.
She said: “I was brought up with Natalie and she’s more like a sister to me than a cousin.
“She was really close to my mum and loved going to aunty Ann’s for a Sunday lunch.
“We are a very close-knit family and it’s a massive, massive loss.”
Vicky Holt, 39, Natalie’s cousin, said the town has pulled together in the wake of the tragedy.
She said: “The town we live in is at standstill. Whenever anything happens in this town, everyone comes together.
“Everyone just gets involved. It’s always been like that.
“It doesn’t feel real. You read these things, don’t you, and it’s shocking when you read them and you always think, that poor family.
“But you don’t expect it to be your own. You don’t expect to be sat here.”
Natalie leaves behind her son Bobby Roberts, partner Jamie Hogarth, mother Marion Mckenzie, step-mother Andrea Healey, father Jason Doherty, step-mother Janet Lewis, brothers, Jordan and Mason as well as aunties, uncles, cousins.
GMP have since launched an investigation into the incident.
Police have asked anyone with any dashcam footage to contact officers.
Pc Jody Oakley, from GMP’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “Our thoughts are with the woman’s family who are all understandably distressed and devastated following this collision.
“An investigation into this collision is on-going and anyone who may have seen anything, has any information or has dash cam footage is asked to contact us.”