‘It’s not fair’
Daughter of Taupo crash victim gutted at loss of man she regarded as her rock
He had just celebrated his 60th birthday and had “so much life ahead of him”. But Leighton Ahuriri’s life was cut short by Tuesday’s two vehicle pile-up near Taupo that claimed four lives and left eight others battling a raft of injuries.
His daughter, Kirsty Ahuriri, was gutted her dad’s life was taken so suddenly. She remembered him as “her rock” — a man 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. We were still on a high from his party . . . It’s just the way he went is heartbreaking.”
Yesterday, police 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 5-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. The baby is in a stable condition.
Kirsty Ahuriri did not know Paul and Hone, who were travelling with her dad, but thought Paul must have been a friend of his.
Originally from Gisborne and home in New Zealand from Australia, Ahuriri was working at Perth Airport. Paul and Hone live in Kaikohe in the Far North.
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 helium 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 Coffee 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’s alive. His face lights 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 per cent supported us no matter what we did or what decision we made.”
While Ahuriri enjoyed coming back to New Zealand, he loved Perth, Kirsty said. He was looking forward to going back to work and 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 Ahuriri to Gisborne today, where family would flock from around Australasia to put him to rest.
Paul and Hone have been taken to Mangamuka marae in the Far North.
Leighton Ahuriri had just turned 60.
Jeanette Ahuriri, Princina Stewart, Leighton Ahuriri and Kirsty Ahuriri.
The horrific crash north of Taupo left four people dead and eight with moderate to serious injuries, including a 10-month-old baby.