Kane Jamie Te Riini was a rugby star in the making but the 19-year-old's life was cut short when the car he was driving smashed into a tree.
The crash happened on Main St in his hometown of Edgecumbe late Tuesday night when the car lost control and skidded off the road. Mr Te Riini and his front seat passenger, Cyrus Aidan Brady, known as Aidan, 25, died at the scene.
People who knew Mr Te Riini, a former Whakatane High School student, talked about his prowess on the rugby and touch fields.
Former coach, mentor and friend Joe Richards had been involved in the youngster's life for many years.
"I've coached him through many levels of touch and also had a lot to do with him through Edgecumbe community events," Mr Richards said.
"Kane was always a superstar on the field, he had a game similar to former Whakatane player Benji Marshall in that he could make something out of nothing."
Mr Richards said Mr Te Riini represented the Bay of Plenty at touch in every age-group level.
"He was also the first person I would call if we had a community event on in Edgecumbe. Kane knew everyone and was good at rounding them up when something needed to be done."
Like many teenagers, Mr Te Riini "did a couple of things he shouldn't have", but it was always more mischief than malicious.
"Kane was larger than life. He was a fantastic sportsman, a great musician and singer and loved Edgecumbe, Edgecumbe was the world to him," Mr Richards said.
Only last weekend Mr Richards' sons' touch team met Mr Te Riini's team in the local touch finals. "Kane always used to play for us, this was the first year he hadn't, so it was pretty ironic to meet his team in the final."
Mr Richards said his team won the game and, instead of being sore about the loss, Mr Te Riini was rapt that an Edgecumbe team had won.
"It was such a shock to find out he had died. I still can't believe it now."
In 2006 the youngster was described as the kingpin of the Whakatane Tai Mitchell Rugby Tournament team, impressing commentators with his speed on attack and aggression on defence. Leading the way for his team that made it through to the semifinal, the pacey centre was later announced as the top try-scorer for the tournament.
That year he was named in the Bay of Plenty Roller Mills team and was reported to be an exciting player for the future.
Mr Brady came from the long-established Brady family from Pikowai where his parents own a farm. He attended Edgecumbe College.
A former fellow student, who did not want to be named, said Mr Brady was very quiet at school.
"He did what he was supposed to do and was not mischief at all," she said. "It was a real surprise to learn he had died in a car crash."
Police are appealing for witnesses who may have seen the white Subaru on Main St immediately before the crash to contact either the Edgecumbe police on (07) 304 9004 or the Whakatane police on (07) 308 5255.
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