FRIENDS and colleagues have paid tribute to a father-of-two killed in a bike crash.

Part-time firefighter Joe Wilkins, 39, from Eynsham, died on Thursday evening after his cycle was involved in a collision with a car near Appleton.

Mr Wilkins was described as “one of the nicest people you could ever meet”, and a “top chap” who would be missed.

David Etheridge, chief fire officer for Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, joined those praising Mr Wilkins.

He said his “exemplary behaviour was a credit to the community”.

The incident, involving a black Ford Focus, happened in Eaton Road at about 9.20pm.

Mr Wilkins was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 29-year-old male car driver, who was also from Eynsham, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and bailed until July 4.

Mr Wilkins leaves behind a partner and two young daughters.

Childhood friend Russell Phipps, 39, from Freeland, had been due to meet Mr Wilkins to watch the Formula 1 qualifying on television at the Swan Hotel in Eynsham today.

Mr Phipps, who attended Eynsham Primary School and Bartholomew School with his friend, said: “He will be a big loss.

“He was definitely a joker and liked a good time. He was a good guy.

“And he was very popular. He will be stupidly missed.”

Mr Wilkins had served at Eynsham Fire Station for 10 years, and was well liked by his fellow firefighters.

Chief fire officer Mr Etheridge said: “The level of loyalty and dedication Joe gave to his community and the brigade in his role as a retained firefighter means that his loss will not only be felt on a personal level by his family, but by the people of Eynsham, where he served, and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, of whom he was a key part.”

He added: “Joe was a valued, well-liked and respected member of the crew.

“Joe’s exemplary conduct and behaviour were a credit to the station, the service and his community.

“My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his partner and two young children, who he leaves behind, and to the firefighters and people of Eynsham.

“There is no doubt he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”

Mr Wilkins worked at Siemens Magnet Technology off Oxford Road, Eynsham, and had been at the firm for more than eight years.

Siemens Colleague and friend Jeremy Pettet, 47 from Stanton Harcourt, said: “He was a well-loved bloke. He didn’t have a bad bone in his body.”

He said members of Mr Wilkins’ team were told the news in the morning and then allowed to go home.

He added: “There was a big cloud over there. They were devastated.”

Jean Woodmass, landlady at Mr Wilkins’ local pub, the Swan Hotel, added: “He was one of the nicest people you would ever meet.

“He was funny, outgoing. He was really upbeat.

“Everyone is very upset. He was just a top chap.”

A member of staff at The Plough Inn in Appleton said her friend was first on the scene of the accident and called an ambulance after she found Mr Wilkins in the ditch.

She added: “It’s horrendous. Things like this hit the community hard.”

Anyone with any information about the crash should call police on 101.

Or they can report details anonymously to the Crimestopper charity on 0800 555 111 or online at