Crash kills family’s ‘rock’

Former Gisborne man among victims

Former Gisborne man among victims

HAPPIER TIMES: Leighton (Nick) Ahuriri with his children Jarred Thompson, Kirsty Ahuriri and Jeanette Ahuriri at his 60th birthday party on October 6. Mr Ahuriri, formerly of Gisborne, died in a car crash near Taupo this week. Picture supplied

One of the victims in the multiple fatal road crash in Taupo this week was former Gisborne man Leighton Ahuriri, who had just celebrated his 60th birthday. Mr Ahuriri’s life was cut short by Tuesday’s two vehicle pile-up that claimed four lives and left eight others battling a raft of injuries.

His daughter Kirsty Ahuriri, who now lives in Taupo, was heartbroken her dad’s life was taken so suddenly. She remembered him as “her rock”, who listened and never judged her and her three siblings.

“He had just celebrated his birthday and was on holiday, it shouldn’t have ended up like this. It’s not fair.” She told The Gisborne Herald this morning the tragedy had still not sunk in. “It is a bit surreal.”

Police yesterday released the names of the people who died in the State Highway 1 crash. Mele Ilisapi Oliveti, 44, a Tongan national residing in Palmerston North died in one vehicle. Helena Adele Paul, 56, Leighton Phillip Ahuriri, 60, and five-year-old Hone Te Ahurei Hawkins-Kanuta died in the other car. A 10-month-old boy, believed to be Hone’s brother, is in Starship Hospital in a stable condition.

Kirsty did not know Helena Paul and Hone, who were travelling with her dad, but thought Helena Paul must have been a friend of his. Originally from Gisborne, Mr Ahuriri, known as Nick, was working at Perth Airport. Helena Paul and Hone lived in Kaikohe, Far North.

When he was younger, Mr Ahuriri worked in the pelt room at the freezing works and also worked for Fulton Hogan here. He left Gisborne and lived in Napier for a short time before moving to Australia.

Mr Ahuriri had flown into New Zealand last week for his birthday party on Friday. He then planned to holiday around the country and visit his children. The family had blown up balloons in colours to match the blue, red and cream cake, set up a present table and organised a buffet feast in a rented room at the Cossie Club in Taupo for his birthday, Kirsty said. The night was full of celebration with his children, grandchildren and friends.

Kirsty wanted her dad to be known as the amazing cheeky man she remembered.

“When he’s around all his moko (grandchildren), that’s when he was alive. His face lit up. He did really silly things to embarrass us when we were young. At the shopping mall he’d dance around like a ballerina. He was super cool, the easiest-going dad.

“He’d just listen and never judge us. He always 100 percent supported us, no matter what we did or what decision we made.”

Mr Ahuriri was well known for his singing voice and the family would miss that part of him a lot, she said.

“He could sing. He was a really good singer.”

While Mr Ahuriri enjoyed coming back to New Zealand, he loved Perth. He was looking forward to going back to work and was planning a cruise in Fiji next year.

“He had so much life ahead of him. He was ready to live life with the people who made him happy.”

The plan was to move Mr Ahuriri to Gisborne today and family were expected to flock from around Australasia to lay him to rest. Helena Paul and Hone have been taken to Mangamuka marae in the Far North.

Mr Ahuriri’s funeral will be held at Evans Funeral Home on Sunday, followed by a burial at Taruheru Cemetery.

— Story by NZ Herald with additional reporting from The Gisborne Herald

One of the victims in the multiple fatal road crash in Taupo this week was former Gisborne man Leighton Ahuriri, who had just celebrated his 60th birthday. Mr Ahuriri’s life was cut short by Tuesday’s two vehicle pile-up that claimed four lives and left eight others battling a raft of injuries.

His daughter Kirsty Ahuriri, who now lives in Taupo, was heartbroken her dad’s life was taken so suddenly. She remembered him as “her rock”, who listened and never judged her and her three siblings.

“He had just celebrated his birthday and was on holiday, it shouldn’t have ended up like this. It’s not fair.” She told The Gisborne Herald this morning the tragedy had still not sunk in. “It is a bit surreal.”

Police yesterday released the names of the people who died in the State Highway 1 crash. Mele Ilisapi Oliveti, 44, a Tongan national residing in Palmerston North died in one vehicle. Helena Adele Paul, 56, Leighton Phillip Ahuriri, 60, and five-year-old Hone Te Ahurei Hawkins-Kanuta died in the other car. A 10-month-old boy, believed to be Hone’s brother, is in Starship Hospital in a stable condition.

Kirsty did not know Helena Paul and Hone, who were travelling with her dad, but thought Helena Paul must have been a friend of his. Originally from Gisborne, Mr Ahuriri, known as Nick, was working at Perth Airport. Helena Paul and Hone lived in Kaikohe, Far North.

When he was younger, Mr Ahuriri worked in the pelt room at the freezing works and also worked for Fulton Hogan here. He left Gisborne and lived in Napier for a short time before moving to Australia.

Mr Ahuriri had flown into New Zealand last week for his birthday party on Friday. He then planned to holiday around the country and visit his children. The family had blown up balloons in colours to match the blue, red and cream cake, set up a present table and organised a buffet feast in a rented room at the Cossie Club in Taupo for his birthday, Kirsty said. The night was full of celebration with his children, grandchildren and friends.

Kirsty wanted her dad to be known as the amazing cheeky man she remembered.

“When he’s around all his moko (grandchildren), that’s when he was alive. His face lit up. He did really silly things to embarrass us when we were young. At the shopping mall he’d dance around like a ballerina. He was super cool, the easiest-going dad.

“He’d just listen and never judge us. He always 100 percent supported us, no matter what we did or what decision we made.”

Mr Ahuriri was well known for his singing voice and the family would miss that part of him a lot, she said.

“He could sing. He was a really good singer.”

While Mr Ahuriri enjoyed coming back to New Zealand, he loved Perth. He was looking forward to going back to work and was planning a cruise in Fiji next year.

“He had so much life ahead of him. He was ready to live life with the people who made him happy.”

The plan was to move Mr Ahuriri to Gisborne today and family were expected to flock from around Australasia to lay him to rest. Helena Paul and Hone have been taken to Mangamuka marae in the Far North.

Mr Ahuriri’s funeral will be held at Evans Funeral Home on Sunday, followed by a burial at Taruheru Cemetery.

— Story by NZ Herald with additional reporting from The Gisborne Herald

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