Leave our "Sad Spot' say family of dead boy

By COREY CHARLTON

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The family of a boy killed when hit by a vehicle on Guppy Rd are devastated that Napier City Council is considering removing roadside tributes to him after receiving a complaint from a nearby resident.

Joshua Bennie was 12 years old when he was killed while biking to Taradale Intermediate after his mountain bike crossed in front of a van outside Reignier Catholic School in 2011.

The news has been particularly difficult for his mother Tracey Gibb, who is preparing for the second anniversary of Joshua's death tomorrow. She felt the decorations served as a safety reminder to children as well as a place his young peers could acknowledge him.

"I can just see the kids forgetting it," she said. "I don't want kids to forget what happened there.

"For me, it's a sad spot and I don't want to drive past and have nothing there but bad memories. At least if you drive past you see flowers and a butterfly that makes you smile."

His auntie Hayley Berriman agreed.

"He was a 12-year-old boy," she said. "Things like that just don't happen everyday. That did rock the community when it happened, it's just a reminder to kids and others that life is precious"


A coroner's report later found the driver of the Toyota Hiace van, who was driving with his wife and two other passengers to Hastings, had braked and swerved but was helpless to avoid the collision. Witnesses to the tragedy supported this, and said Joshua had not looked before swerving into the path of the van. There was no evidence the van had been travelling in excess of the 50km/h speed limit.


The flowers and tributes laid on the Guppy Rd power pole were originally placed by Joshua's friends and peers, and the family had since been maintaining them.


There was no response when Hawke's Bay Today visited the home of the resident who complained.


"One person gets to make that decision for a whole community," Ms Gibbs said. "It's not fair. Not even to have a discussion about it?"


Napier City Councillor Michelle Pyke, a friend of the family, said she believed the tributes should be allowed to stay. If not, she hoped a plaque made by Joshua's grandfather could be erected nearby.


Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott acknowledged it was a very sensitive issue.


"I respect the family's grief and understand that people want a place to congregate and remember and if a plaque is put on the school's fence then that is a much more permanent reminder of Joshua than a public pole, which inevitably would not be permanent."

 

- Hawkes Bay Today

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