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'They are hurting': Families rocked by deaths of four teens

Author
Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 25 Apr 2022, 9:18am
Police have named the four boys who died as Konnor Steele, Indaka Rouse, Kyah Kennedy, and O Maruhuatau Otuwhare Tawhai. Photos / Supplied / George Heard
Police have named the four boys who died as Konnor Steele, Indaka Rouse, Kyah Kennedy, and O Maruhuatau Otuwhare Tawhai. Photos / Supplied / George Heard

'They are hurting': Families rocked by deaths of four teens

Author
Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 25 Apr 2022, 9:18am

A constant trickle of visitors came and went from the sombre family homes of the four teenagers killed in an Invercargill crash as their loved ones awaited the return of their bodies yesterday. 

The parents of the three Bluff teens, all aged 16, live within a couple of blocks of each other. 

Footpaths with bunched groupings of parked cars marked the homes at the base of Bluff Hill of families who were grieving for their sons, brothers and friends. 

It is understood the bodies of the four teens are set to be back from Macdonald & Weston Funeral Home in the coming days. Some in the community had thought they would be returned yesterday. 

A fourth 17-year-old victim lived in Invercargill not far from the site of the head-on crash between a truck and a ute on Queens Drive shortly before 4pm on Friday. 

The friends were in the Ford Ranger ute when it collided with a concrete truck on a marked 50km/h inner-city road in wet conditions. Police are still investigating the circumstances. 

New Zealand's southernmost community was coming to terms with who the teens were after police released their names yesterday morning. 

The crash between a concrete truck and a ute took place just before 4pm on Friday. Photo / George Heard 

They were: Konnor Steele, 16, Indaka Rouse, 16, Kyah Kennedy, 16, all from Bluff, and O Maruhuatau Otuwhare Tawhai, 17, from Invercargill. 

Bluff Community Board chair Raymond Fife said the fatal accident has had a profound "ripple effect" through the tight-knit community. 

"These are well-established families in Bluff, cousins, grandparents, brothers and sisters that live in the town. So, it has a big effect on the community, definitely." 

The community leader was also at a loss to articulate the pain of the families — some of whom he has been in contact with. 

"They are hurting a lot. I don't know what else to say," he said. 

"They've got a lot of family in the town and they've got a lot of family support. That's helping them get through this grieving period. They're lucky in that respect." 

Tributes and online fundraising efforts for the four teens continued to pop up yesterday. 

Givealittle fundraising pages for Tawhai and Rouse by 7pm yesterday had raised more than $10,000 combined for the families. 

A friend of Tawhai's family who set up their Givealittle page described him as a "young beautiful, talented, caring and cheeky man [who] has been stolen, and hearts are suffering. 

"In an instant his [whānau's] world was changed. Their hearts broken." 

The family friend describes Tawhai's parents "losing their baby. Not something any parent should ever have to experience". 

A friend of Rouse's family has also set up a Givealittle page to raise money to support his mother. 

"As his mum and his family grieve for the loss of their son, we would like to be able to raise some funds in order to ease some financial strain so that his mumma can take some time to be with his brothers and sisters and grieve," a family friend wrote on the page. 

One person who donated wrote: "Our love and thoughts are with Aleisha at this incredibly difficult and sad time. 

"Moe mai rā, Indaka." 

"Sending you so much love Aleisha and whānau, I am absolutely heartbroken for you all," wrote another. 

The Demons and Port Softball Club in Southland also paid tribute to Kennedy on Facebook, remembering him as a "talented teammate and a fierce competitor". 

"He was a natural athlete and a pleasure to be around, the Demons Club were thankful to him for joining us at various Club Champs Tournaments over the years." 

The "devastated" club also paid tribute to Kennedy's parents and extended family. 

"You have been a part of our club for so long and we are just overstruck with sadness that you're now flying high with the angels." 

Earlier yesterday, Southland Boys' High School rector Simon Coe said the accident was a difficult time for the Bluff, Invercargill and SBHS communities. 

The four boys were former students of the school. 

"Our thoughts are with the grieving families and we have reached out to them," Coe told the Herald. "We are saddened by the loss of four young men who had a life of potential ahead of them." 

- by Tom Dillane, NZ Herald

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