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Eleanor Reinecke mourned by friends and family

Australian worker was walking on the highway when struck by a taxi

She was only in Whistler for a short time, but in the few months Eleanor Reinecke called the resort home she became a local.

She made friends effortlessly and easily, and grew close to her co-workers.

"She had a lovely old soul for someone who was just 24, which I think caught everyone off-guard - just how mature and sensible she was," said Milestones manager Andy Flynn, her boss.

Reinecke was killed in the early morning hours of Thursday, Jan. 6 after a taxi on Highway 99 struck her. The accident took place just after 3 a.m., north of Lorimer Road. She was walking with her back to traffic.

The 24-year-old arrived in Whistler in November and worked for Milestones Restaurant in the Upper Village and Castro's Cuban Cigar Store. The RCMP are still in the process of tracking her movements that evening, but it's believed that she attended a late Jan. 5 New Year's Eve party for restaurant staff that worked on the night of Dec. 31.

Flynn says everyone was deeply saddened after the accident, and was glad to be able to provide some comfort to Reinecke's parents after they flew from Perth to collect her remains. From the first time he met her, Flynn was impressed with Eleanor.

"It's funny, but we had a big job fair (at Milestones) and she didn't get hired then - I actually hired her off the street after that," said Flynn.

"I was crossing the road after that and saw her walking along with earmuffs and a kangaroo decal on her jacket, and she totally looked like she was out looking for a job. I told she should work for us, and just never looked back. She loved it and was one of our leads in hosting. She was an outstanding person and bonded with everyone here in a short time. It was just incredible."

The staff at Milestones and Castro's Cigar Store held a quiet memorial service at the restaurant on Tuesday morning. Her parents attended, as well as her boyfriend and travelling companion of eight years and several of his co-workers from Whistler Blackcomb.

It was a large turnout for someone who had only been in town for a matter of months, and Flynn said it comforted the family.

"For her parents to come to a small town and not knowing what to expect, they were just blown away by how we dealt with the tragedy, and pleasantly surprised how open-armed and willing to help that people were," he said.

"I think that really struck a chord, to see how many hearts she touched in the short time she was here, and how loved she was. It really impressed on her parents, and they appreciated it."

The family returned to Australia on Wednesday with Eleanor's remains.

Flynn says Eleanor was impressive in a lot of ways. For one thing, he learned that she had already stepped foot on every continent with the exception of Antarctica. For another, she was very mature and responsible for her age.

Trisa Brandt, one of her co-workers at Milestones, wrote this description of Eleanor on her blog, My Morning Coffee:

"Beauty. Kindness. A huge smile that was not proportionate to the rest of her face, it was simply too big, and she was quick to use it on everyone. Her long blonde hair. Her brilliant future. Her brains. Her calmness and serenity. She always had a certain kind of regal classiness about her, and when she walked into a room, people noticed."

The RCMP is continuing to investigate the accident, which closed that section of highway for nine hours. Investigators have spoken to several witnesses and have obtained the onboard computer data from the taxi. They are also waiting for a toxicology report on the victim.

It appears that weather may have been a factor in the accident, with heavy snow that day turning to rain in the evening, creating slush and puddles on the highway. Reinecke was walking on the travelled portion of the road and was to the left of the white fog line when the accident occurred.

Police reported on Tuesday that the taxi, on its way to pick up a fare, did try to avoid the pedestrian. It first swerved towards the snowbank to avoid Eleanor, then swerved right when the driver realized that there wasn't enough room to pass. But there was an oncoming vehicle in the southbound lane, and so the driver steered right again, striking Eleanor.

The police know what speed the driver was travelling before the accident, but are withholding that information until the investigation is complete. The driver has not been charged with any offence.

There are still questions about where Eleanor was over the course of the evening, and where she was headed at the time of the accident. There is also a Valley Trail route running parallel to the highway in that area.

The RCMP want to hear from anyone who may have seen a woman dressed in black walking along the highway at any point that evening. Call 604-932-3044 if you have any information.