Rider 'gutted' over Daisy

By Carolyne Meng-Yee

The boy who ploughed into two teenagers on a Northland beach on New Year's Eve is prepared to go to jail for the incident - and is now "too scared to have fun", say his parents.

Nikita Kneebone, 15, a Year 10 student at Dargaville High School, is "gutted" over the death of Daisy Fernandez and the injuries to her best friend Claudia Billinge, both 13.

Kneebone was riding his unregistered Yamaha motocross bike on Ripiro Beach in darkness and without headlights when he hit the two girls.

It has since emerged police were called to the beach earlier on New Year's Eve after complaints about speeding riders on the sand.

Tina Bates said her son - who had been at the beach with friends - had said little about the incident. "We don't talk about it; it's just something you don't talk about. It's not exactly an easy conversation to bring up."

Bates said her son had been riding the competition bike without her knowledge. She and Nikita's stepfather Steven Kneebone were at a friend's house in Dargaville on New Year's Eve, when word filtered through there had been an accident.

She said she was furious when she saw her son after the accident. "I won't tell you what I said, but I growled [at] him.

We went from there. I was mad, but he was a mess.

"The first three days were really hard to even put your head around it, but you know you have to put your head up. We can't do anything about it... you just can't put life on hold. We have a farm to run, we have a family to look after so we can't just stop it."

Bates and Steven believe it's inevitable they will meet the Fernandez family at some stage, but they're unsure what they would say.

They can understand why the family would be upset with them. "We have found out that they are really nice people. I was just trying to put across that there could be a whole lot of dislike and they are more than welcome to feel that for the rest of their lives," said Bates.

Nikita, who started riding motorbikes on the family farm at the age of 10 and has been a competitive motocross rider for almost two years, did not know Billinge or Fernandez before the accident.

The family has faced the wrath of the media in the past week. Last weekend, Herald on Sunday columnist Kerre Woodham wrote of the rider: "It was you and your carelessness and your arrogance that killed her."

Bates says her son is a "caring" child who, despite headlines, would never leave anyone for dead. "He's a thoughtful, caring kid, and he's always thinking about other people.

"He's a typical, quiet 15-year-old. He doesn't go out there and drink and smoke. He's a quiet 15-year-old who does motocross and stays at home or goes out with his friends."

He remains at home with his parents while police complete their investigation. This weekend the family left town to escape a media frenzy.

Bates said the family had received support from the local community, although some people might be talking behind their backs. Kneebone has been supported by his own friends and close family.

The police serious crash unit is still investigating and a decision has yet to be made on whether any charges will be laid.

"We feel like we have done something wrong... there's always, 'If only we'd done this and if we'd only done that,' but I'm sick of if onlys," said Bates.

Bates said they can't turn back the clock. "You just have to tell your kids to put their head up high. You can't walk with your head down all the time, because what you're going to do is destroy your life."

Steven said, "He's too scared to have fun."

Billinge, Fernandez' friend who survived the incident, is recovering well from her injuries, which included a broken right fibia, a broken pelvis and a chunk out of her right kneecap.

Her father Mark said yesterday she was well enough to be transferred from Auckland's Middlemore Hospital to Tauranga Hospital, near the family home.

She was hoping to "hobble around" on crutches within a fortnight, but would not be able to start the school year with the rest of her class, he said.

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