A BRIDE-TO-BE learned her biker fiance had been killed in a motorway smash while she tried on her wedding dress at a final fitting.
Dionne McKinlay, 28, was told in a phone call that firefighter Paul Cross, 31, had died in an accident on the M66 at Bury only hours earlier.
The devoted couple were due to marry on 17 September.
The heartbreaking call came from Paul's father, who drove past Saturday's accident scene and saw his son's motorbike but thought he had stopped to help emergency crews.
A family friend, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "His dad Glenn told her something terrible had happened and he needed to see her face to face. She knew what it was straightaway.
"It must have been horrible having to make such a heart-stopping phone call. Paul was a lovely lad. It is terrible, crushing news.
"They have a lovely little son, Ethan, who is only three. Paul was really looking forward to the wedding. It would have been a real celebration."
This week Paul's devastated bride, with whom he lived in Bertha Street, Accrington, and family paid tribute to the Burnley FC fan.
They said: "Paul was a popular and well-liked person who was outgoing and lived life to the full. He was a well-known member of the community and a dedicated father who lived for his son Ethan and he was getting excited about the wedding.
"Paul was passionate and proud to be a firefighter and will be greatly missed by all who knew him."
Paul was on his way to work at the Blackley Fire Station in Manchester when the accident happened.
His station commander, Gordon Stubbs, said he was an essential team member and had just passed his Leading Firefighter exams.
He said: "Paul was intensely professional when performing his duties and took great pride in serving the communities of Manchester. During his service he attended numerous incidents and was involved in several rescues of trapped and injured people.
"Always involved in station activities, he will be sadly missed by all his friends and colleagues at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service."
Paul was also a talented sportsman and as a child represented the North West in under-14s gymnastic tournaments across the world including Canada, Bulgaria, Belgium and Germany.
He was brought up in Accrington with his parents Glenn and Linda Cross, of Whitewell Road, Accrington, and brother Lee.
Paul joined Accrington Air Cadets and when he turned 20 joined the RAF and did two four-month tours of duty in the Falklands in 1995 and 1999.
Police are appealing for information about the accident, which happened at 8.20am and closed the motorway for nearly five hours. They want to speak to the driver of a white Ford transit-style van.
Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 1550 or Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.