30 Apr 2019

'No words can describe the anguish' - family of Taupō crash victims

7:46 pm on 30 April 2019

The grandmother of the sole survivor of a crash that claimed eight lives north of Taupō over the weekend has spoken of the whānau's anguish.

Sherilyn Poutawa speaks about her family who were killed in a north Taupō crash and her grandson who is recovering in hospital.

Sherilyn Poutawa speaks about her family who were killed in a north Taupō crash and her grandson who is recovering in hospital. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

David Poutawa, Margaret Luke and five of their children were killed in the crash on Sunday morning when a van and an SUV collided head-on near Ohakuri Road, Atiamuri.

Seven people died in the van as did Jenny Rogers, the sole occupant of the SUV, who has been confirmed as a long-time Scouts New Zealand staff member.

The sole survivor, a 9-year-old boy, is in a stable condition at Waikato Hospital.

The boy's grandmother, Sherilyn Poutawa, said she would like to thank everyone for their efforts in helping the whānau through this process.

"This tragedy of losing your loved ones has been devstating and a shock. No words can fully describe the agony, the anguish that our whānau is experiencing at this time."

Sherilyn Poutawa speaking to media about the loss of her son's family in a crash north of Taupo.

Sherilyn Poutawa Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

She said her son's family were on their way home when the crash happened and she was with another one of her grandsons at home.

"The sole survivor is my nine-year-old grandson, who is recovering quite well, he's been in surgery and it's been successful ... it will be a long journey for him."

She said her two grandchildren were surrounded by a big loving family and were waiting for their speedy recovery.

"We would like to thank the whānau, friends, all work colleagues of my son, school teachers, neighbours, for all their condolences and heartfelt aroha, prayers, thoughts.

"We dearly ask for privacy and respect through our coming days, we ask our whānau, friends and family everywhere to please continue to pray as we grieve and mourn our loss, which will be a long journey for us."

In a short joint statement from Tokoroa North Primary School, Tokoroa Intermediate and Tokoroa High School, they said it was a tragic accident that had affected the whole community.

Scouts NZ leader 'will be missed'

Jenny Rodgers

Jenny Rodgers Photo: Supplied / Scouts NZ

Meanwhile, the scouting leader who died driving the SUV has been described as someone dedicated to her family and with a deep passion for scouting.

Jenny Rodgers was Scouts NZ's National Schools Manager and its movements general manager for the Lower North Island.

Scouts New Zealand said she her bright smile, loud laugh and passion for life would fill the room wherever she was.

It said she started out in Scouting at the age of 14 and achieved her Queen's Scout Award in 1984.

Waitomo Scouts Caving School director Warren Turnwald said Ms Rodgers had been at a dinner at the school the night before the crash.

"And one thing she said to me on Saturday night was 'I'm now being paid for doing somethign that I've loved doing all my life.

"That probably reflects her feeling towards the position and towards scouting in general.

"It's a great loss and she will be missed."

The organisation said Ms Rodgers was a dedicated volunteer, taking on many leadership roles in her 30-years with the movement.

It said she had a positive can-do attitude and commitment to scouting values and will be sorely missed, particularly for her ability to take people under her wing and to go out of her way to help others no matter the task.

She lived by the Scouts values and role modelled them every day, it said.

Ms Rodgers is survived by her husband Andrew and three daughters, a granddaughter, mother, siblings and wider family. Scouts NZ said the family had asked for privacy at this time.