The Warwick Daily News Top 10 stories of 2016
THERE were hundreds of stories that captured the minds, hearts and smiles of Daily News readers over the year, but some reached another level with massive reach and engagement across our catchment area and beyond.
One of our stories was even spotted on the Daily Mail UK website, showing that occasionally a little Warwick story has the power to travel around the world.
To cap off another amazing year for our region, we've compiled a list of our biggest online stories for 2016.
10: Body found
ROUNDING out the top 10 was a breaking story from just over the range at Aratula.
The story broke at 3pm on June 9 when a man's body was found.
Police believed the man, whose body was found at the Shell Aratula Roadhouse between Warwick and Ipswich, might have died from a drug overdose.
A Queensland Police spokesman said initial investigations suggested the man might have gone on a rampage and smashed up the room where he was staying near the service station at Aratula Village Gap View Motel and Caravan Park.
Read the story here: http://www.warwickdailynews.com.au/news/body-found-shell-service-station/3042246
9: Ride to jail
OUR ninth biggest story of the year was that of a Killarney polocrosse player Gail Donnelly from Silverdale who fleeced $139,818 from the education department to fund her love of the sport and her lavish lifestyle.
The woman pleaded guilty to fraud stemming from her time at Boonah State High School and using her position to systemically steal money on more than 300 occasions.
She was jailed for four-and-a-half years for the crime.
8: Highway crash
AT NUMBER eight we see the tragic breaking story from February 18, of a horror accident on the Cunningham Hwy near the Sandy Creek turnoff just west of Warwick.
The crash between two b-double trucks and a car, saw 89-year-old Ivy Little died later from the injuries she sustained in the incident.
Travelling with her was son Gary Little, owner of the Sandy Creek Hotel and a much-admired community figure.
The community rallied behind Gary in the weeks and months to come after the tragic collision, which resulted in the 58-year-old Victorian truck driver involved in the crash charged with two counts of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing grievous bodily harm.
Police believed at the time the Littles' car was thrown into the path of an oncoming truck after it was hit from behind.
While Mr Little was recovering in hospital, callous thieves broke into the Sandy Creek pub causing damage to the historic venue.
7: Church cover up
SLOTTING in at number seven on our list, was a Warwick court story that dragged up a secret kept by a Jehovah's Witness church for more than a decade.
The story of a parishioner and his abuse of a young girl sent shockwaves across the community, particularly because of the way it was covered up and kept quiet by the church in question.
The court heard the man, who was aged in his 30s at the time, molested the young daughter of a friend on three occasions and raped her once.
Barrister Robbie Davies told the court the girl, who was not even a teenager at the time, reported the abuse to the church three years later, in 2002, and they "made their own inquiries".
As a result, the offender was "ostracised" from the church for three years but the matter was not reported to police.
The man was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail. The term will be suspended after he serves eight months.
6: Winter wonderland
IT WAS the story Southern Downs dreams are made of.
The headline said it all, "Forecasters predict first Warwick snow in 32 years" and again, the online hordes in this part of the state went absolutely nuts for it.
The story landed on our website at 9.39am on June 23 and had storm-chasers scrambling for their car keys.
From Guyra to Stanthorpe the snows did fall and fall heavily, but sadly all Warwick saw were about seven or eight reported bits of sleet.
This didn't stop any of the excitement however, as the pictures and videos flooding in from further south, had dozens of Warwick families pile the kids into the car to head down the highway in search of snow.
5: The clown craze
IT WAS a brief, ridiculous craze that swept the state and even Warwick wasn't immune, becoming one of the first towns at the time to swallow the hype surrounding the so-called "clown craze".
A scared resident took to Facebook to warn others of a menacing clown. It was picked up and turned into a story by reporter Molly Glassey.
Within hours the news had conquered the local social media space and captured the imagination of people across the region for days to come.
Read the story here: http://www.warwickdailynews.com.au/news/breaking-clown-lose-warwick/3098056/
4: Missing woman
AT NUMBER four is the story of a woman missing on the Sunshine Coast.
The article about the mother and successful pharmacist from March 22 proved a story doesn't necessarily need to be local to capture the hearts and minds of the Warwick community.
Police later found the body of 50-year-old Margo Kliendienst in bushland prompting a wave of grief from readers.
3: A sad loss
THE passing of larger-than-life and widely loved teacher Phill Higgins touched thousands of readers across Warwick and beyond, reaching even to Bundaberg where Mr Higgins had grown up and gone to school.
The outpouring of respect and admiration that followed our story from October 4 was almost overwhelming.
Students, parents, teachers, friends and even people who'd had little to do with Mr Higgins felt the pain of his young family and the gaping hole he left in the wider community.
The deputy principal at Warwick West State School was honoured in a heart-wrenching tribute from his colleagues, particularly school principal Jason Calcott.
"He was the life of the party whether it was with staff, kids, parents or a room full of principals," Mr Calcott said.
"He is that teacher that students talk about and in years to come will be relayed to their own children as the legend of their school days."
Vale Phill Higgins, loved and missed.
2: The internet storm
OUR number two story of the year from October 27 turned out to be little more than words.
All forecasts, experts predictions and hype amounted to little as the "biggest storm of the year" failed to materialise.
This didn't stop an enormous amount of views and Facebook shares spreading the story far and wide, much further than the potential reach of the storm.
An "internet storm".
1: Local council elections
OUR most viewed story of the year surrounded our 2016 local government elections and the excellent rolling coverage from reporter Sophie Lester.
The story began on March 19 as polling around the region drew to a close and the updates continued right through until March 22 with the majority of votes counted.
The result was a new mayor and new council.
Southern Downs readers followed the story closely as history was made.
Read the story here: http://www.warwickdailynews.com.au/news/residents-rush-to-vote-on-time/2970062/