TRIBUTES have been paid to two friends who died following a crash involving a motorcycle at a blackspot in Great Bentley.

Sergiu Proca, 22, from Moldova, and Saulius Jokubauskas, 48, from Lithuania, died following a collision in Flag Hill on March 12 shortly after 11pm.

Both men, who had been living in Basildon for a number of years, worked at the town’s Bella Italia restaurant.

They were on the motorbike when they collided with a van close to Westwood Park, opposite Frowick Lane.

It is not believed the driver of the car was seriously hurt.

Inquests into the men’s deaths were opened and adjourned at the coroner’s court in Chelmsford.

Their friend Rosie Buck, who also worked at the restaurant, said: “They were both living and working in the UK and were much loved friends and colleagues.

“We worked in the restaurant together, but we had a very small team so we really were a family.

“Everyone is truly devastated.

“Sergiu was the most hard-working and caring person I have ever come across, as was Sol.

“Sol and Sergiu were returning following a short skiing trip they’d been on together.

“Sergiu’s passion was cooking. He loved to travel and explore as much of the world as he could and his friends and family meant the absolute world to him.

“He was warm, lovely and a pleasure to be around.

“Sol’s great passions were his bike and travelling - there aren’t many places he hasn’t visited.

“He was so intelligent and one of the funniest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

“We miss them both desperately.”

Friends of Mr Proca had launched a fundraising page in a bid to raise £5,000 for his body to be repatriated to Moldova.

It is understood his body has now been returned to his family and that Jokubauskas’ body will be repatriated soon.

Witnesses to the crash should call 101 quoting incident 1322 of March 12.