'His memory will live on in us forever': family to farewell Australian killed during Borneo motorcross race

Michael Headley should have been celebrating his 35th birthday last week.

Instead, his family was left with the agonising task of finalising the details for his funeral, and explaining to his young son Maeson why daddy would not be coming home.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Headley's family and many friends will gather for a memorial service in Bundaberg to remember Mick, a motocross enthusiast who died during a motorbike rally in Borneo, Indonesia on February 16.

Nearly 100 riders in the 140-kilometre Balikpapan Two Days Enduro race were forced to spend the night in the jungle when heavy rain flooded the already difficult track, making it impassable.

Mr Headley, an Australian who lived with his young family in the coastal city of Balikpapan in Borneo, died of a heart attack after reportedly becoming severely dehydrated during the challenging conditions.

His Queensland-based family paid tribute to Mick, who they said was given his first BMX bike at the age of two and developed a passion for anything with wheels.

"Michael's life was taken away from us too soon and it is hard to understand why a tragedy like this happened to such a wonderful young person," his sister, Nicole Headley, said on behalf of the family.

"Michael may be gone but his memory will live on in us forever."

But his family has also questioned the safety of the race that claimed his life, saying it did not appear to be well organised.

About 700 participants were participating in the race which began on Saturday, February 16 when severe weather hit. More than 90 riders were unable to finish the challenging course and remained trapped in the jungle, with the final 20 riders not rescued until Monday evening, Indonesian media reported, two days after Mr Headley's death.

"My brother was an experienced rider, he knew what he was in for, he would have been accustomed [in Australia] to checkpoints, radio communications, medics and waterpoints, from what I can tell these basic safety guidelines were not adhered to," she said.

Mr Headley was employed with a mining company in Balikpapan in Borneo, where Ms Headley said he worked hard and was well on the way to fulfilling his career goals.

"Michael was loved by all family and friends," Ms Headley said.

"Michael was a family man with traditional ideas and what gave him the most pride was being a devoted and dedicated father to his son Maeson.

"From Michael's first BMX bike at the age of two, he had a passion for anything with wheels. Michael idolised the Crusty Demons motocross riders and encouraged his son Maeson at every opportunity to follow in his footsteps."

Following Mr Headley's death, race organiser Harin Tasmida denied the event was poorly organised, saying they responded as quickly as possible.

"Nobody went missing. They only got stuck in the jungle because of the muddy terrain as it was raining a night before. We sent them food and water," he said.

The Jakarta Globe reported that 40 officers from Basarnas, Indonesia's national search-and-rescue agency, and dozens of army officers were sent in to find the stranded riders.

A local rescuer, Trembli Vemberiyanto, said conditions were difficult.

"Many motorcycles broke down on the trail and riders had no choice but to stay overnight in the jungle without food and water, many suffering from fatigue," he said.

Ms Headley said her brother had received many tributes from those who knew him, and his service today would be a celebration of a life that had touched so many.

"Michael may be gone but his memory will live on in us forever,' Ms Headley said.

"Michael will forever live in my heart. In all of our hearts.

"Until we meet again Mick."

Michael is survived by his his wife Adolfina, son Maeson, parents Lorraine and Warren and sister Nicole.

A memorial service will be held at the Bundaberg Crematorium and Memorial Park at 11am.

The story 'His memory will live on in us forever': family to farewell Australian killed during Borneo motorcross race first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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