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'Precious taonga': Body of crash victim brought to marae as former schoolmates perform haka

Author
Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 26 Apr 2022, 8:28pm
The body of 16-year-old Kyah Kennedy is carried into the Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff for his tangi. Photo / George Heard
The body of 16-year-old Kyah Kennedy is carried into the Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff for his tangi. Photo / George Heard

'Precious taonga': Body of crash victim brought to marae as former schoolmates perform haka

Author
Tom Dillane, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 26 Apr 2022, 8:28pm

A procession of cars slowly rolled through the streets of Bluff today to deliver the body of one of the four teenage victims of last week's fatal crash to his local marae. 

As the coffin of 16-year-old Kyah Kennedy was carried through the gates of Te Rau Aroha Marae his former Southland Boys High School classmates performed a haka which bellowed down the hill over the seaside town. 

Kennedy died on April 22 in a head-on collision with a concrete truck on Queens Drive, Invercargill, shortly after 4pm. 

In the ute with him were friends: Konnor Steele, 16, Indaka Rouse, 16, and O Maruhuatau Otuwhare Tawhai, 17. All of the local mates died at the scene of the crash. 

A crowd of loved ones gathered from 1pm today at the gates of the marae situated half-way up Bluff Hill. 

A line of at least a dozen cars followed Kennedy's hearse to the marae. Several bystanders stood to watch the haka in the drizzly afternoon. 

The body of 16-year-old Kyah Kennedy is carried into the Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff for his tangi. Photo / George Heard

Students from Southland Boys High School were practising in the marae prior to Kennedy's arrival. 

The 16-year-old was known throughout the Southland communities as a talented sportsman – and a Givealittle page set up by his softball club has already raised more than $6000 for his whānau. 

Te Rau Aroha Marae spokesman Dean Whaanga told the Herald a tangi for Kennedy will continue there where his family can receive visitors until Friday, when a service for the Bluff teen will be held. 

It is understood the bodies of the four teenagers were returned to families in Bluff and Invercargill yesterday. 

An online statement from Te Rau Aroha Marae said Kennedy's "immediate whānau will bring their precious taonga, beloved son, beloved brother, back to the marae. Kyah will lie in state and remain in Tahu Potiki until Friday". 

The body of 16-year-old Kyah Kennedy is carried into the Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff for his tangi. Photo / George Heard 

Local Ngāi Tahu iwi from Te Rau Aroha Marae visited the families last night and have been providing support over the weekend since the accident. 

A service for Konnor Steel, who lived just a few blocks away from his schoolmate Kennedy, will be held at the Bluff Rugby Club this Thursday at 1pm. 

The Ngā Hau E Whā marae in Invercargill is also helping organise a tangi for 17-year-old victim O Maruhuatau Otuwhare Tawhai. 

It is understood that a funeral for Tawhai – known to family and friends as "Maru" – will be held this Thursday. 

Truck driver involved in crash speaks 

The truck driver involved in the fatal Invercargill collision returned to the street where it happened the next day, visibly distraught. 

Rhys Wilson, 52, was behind the wheel of a concrete truck involved in the head-on crash with the vehicle full of 16- and 17-year-old boys along Queens Drive on April 22. 

The Invercargill resident was seen sitting on the berm beside the crash site with his head in his hands crying shortly after 3pm on Saturday. 

"Yeah, I was back there just trying to get some closure so that was all," Wilson told the Herald. 

Rhys Wilson was behind the wheel of a truck involved in a head-on crash with the vehicle full of teens on Friday along Queens Drive. He returned to the crash scene the next day. Photo / George Heard 

When asked how he had been coping since the accident the truck driver admitted it had been "pretty rough". 

"You know, I've got some good support. I'm well. I'm getting better. I just feel sorry for the people in the car so … but I can't do anything about that," Wilson said. 

"I'm okay ... I'm recovering with friends and family. That's about all that people need to know." 

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash. 

Givealittle pages to support the families of Tawhai and Rouse have also been set up. 

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