Eaton focuses on daughter in wake of death

By Sam Hurley

Hawke's Bay and former Hurricanes rugby star Chris Eaton remains in shock and continues to grieve his wife, following her death in an Easter weekend car crash, but has vowed in an interview with Woman's Day to honour her memory by raising their young daughter the way she would have wanted.

Eaton told the women's magazine he would keep his wife in his heart by raising their 4-year-old daughter Layla in Hawke's Bay, where he was born and raised and where the couple first met.

Hannah Eaton, 25, was killed on March 30 when the vehicle the mum was driving collided head-on with a Ford Territory SUV, near Puriri, on SH26 between Paeroa and Thames. Tragically her mum was also killed in a car crash.

The 29-year-old, who most recently played for Australian Super Rugby team Western Force, said he would put his career on hold to focus on being a full-time dad.

"I've told the Force I won't be coming back. At least for this year, we'll stay here. It's too hard to move away with the support here. I'm just conscious about raising Layla the way I knew Hannah would like," he said.

He spoke of how some days when he had just returned from training, or was by himself were particularly hard.

"It's hard for me looking at pictures. I've had to clean out the bedroom. I got one of Hannah's friends to help me because it's too hard," he told Woman's Day.

A month prior to her death, Hannah, a part time-model, graduated as a midwife and began work for the Hawke's Bay District Health Board.

"She was a really passionate, intelligent, beautiful person," he said.

He continues to live in the Hastings home the pair bought when Hannah became pregnant with Layla but said he struggles to sleep in the bedroom he shared with his wife, opting rather to sleep in the lounge.

He talked to Woman's Day about the horror and and raw emotions he felt when he learnt about his wife's fate from his Force coach and team doctor, while in Sydney for a match.

"We walked downstairs silently and they told me what had happened. I just broke down," he said. "It was a tough flight. I cried the whole way home with my shades on."

He was met by family members at the airport and had the devastating task of telling his daughter what had happened.

"She cried all the way back to Tairua," he told the magazine.

Hannah was farewelled at St John's Cathedral, Napier, in early April, as friends and family packed the cathedral to say goodbye.

His daughter, he says is learning to cope with the loss as they help each other through their tough days.

"She has also taken up ballet classes, like her mum wanted.

"If I'm having a bit of a moment, she tries to look after me sometimes, which can be good and bad at the same time. It makes me think I'm the one that needs to be looking after her."

He said he couldn't imagine what he would have done had his young daughter not been there to help.

"I'm just conscious about raising her the way I knew Hannah would like," he said.

"I just can't imagine what the next couple of years are going to hold for us. But we are a team, me and Layla. We'll get through this."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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