Amy is the head of news for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Tragic loss relived for teens

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A drink driver who killed a Tauranga mother yesterday sat next to her shattered husband in front of school students and pleaded with them not to make the some tragic mistake he did.

In an emotionally charged presentation, convicted drink driver Roy Nathan and widower Bert van Heuckelum united in an effort to stop others getting behind the wheel drunk.

The Katikati men told their compelling stories to about 200 Year 11 Katikati College students at the Blue Light Anti Drink Drive Expo at Classic Flyers yesterday morning, and addressed students from Aquinas College and Tauranga Youth Academy, which caters for students outside mainstream schooling, in the afternoon.

In the morning session, the students sat in silence and fixed their eyes on Mr van Heuckelum as he told how his dreams had been shattered when his 57-year-old wife Jeannetta was killed on September 28, 2008.

The Tauranga Hospital nurse was on her way to work when Mr Nathan crossed the centreline north of Apata coolstores on State Highway 2.

Mr van Heuckelum and Mr Nathan faced each other for the first time since the trial at a restorative justice meeting last week and yesterday publicly told of their pain.

"It shattered all our dreams," Mr van Heuckelum, 62, told the teenagers.

"The joy is gone. We worked together and we made decisions together. She was not only the mother of my children and my wife but she was my best friend," he said choking back tears.

Mr van Heuckelum told how he came over the top of the hill near Apata on his way to the markets that fateful morning and saw flashing lights - and the wreckage of his wife's car.

He got out of his car and a policeman delivered the news that broke his heart.

"I went numb. All my feelings disappeared."

Telling his four children was the hardest thing he ever had to do, he said.

"The anger was unbelievable. There were holes in the walls. Then I had to call the other two and said please come home. I didn't realise what I was asking them to do but they had to pass the crash site. They recognised the car too. By the time they got home they were a mess."

Mr van Heuckelum said he would never forget what happened but hoped to one day forgive Mr Nathan, who he knew before the accident.

"Knowing Roy, being the same age as my eldest son, I wouldn't want his life to be destroyed. I just wanted him to know that," he told the Bay of Plenty Times after the presentation.

"I can't live with hate because it will consume you. It will just eat away at me all the time. I wanted to talk to let Roy know that I was kind of okay."

Nothing would bring his wife of 33 years back but Mr van Heuckelum had a strong message for the students.

"People say time heals. Yes, time heals but very slowly," he said.

"I know what kind of impact it has made on our family. If anything I do can stop another family going through the same thing, it's worth it. If we didn't do anything it might happen again to somebody else. It might be somebody I know."


  • Bert van Heuckelum and Roy Nathan will tell their stories at a public open night at Classic Flyers at 6.45pm.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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