'Amazing' mum dies in head-on smash

By Sam Hurley -
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Mother Sarah-Jo Manaena with daughters and husband Reihana Manaena. Photo/Supplied
Mother Sarah-Jo Manaena with daughters and husband Reihana Manaena. Photo/Supplied

A heartbroken husband and friends are grieving for "loving mother" of two Sarah-Jo Manaena, who was killed in Monday's car accident on State Highway 50.

The 25-year-old Pakipaki woman died when her BMW station wagon collided head-on with a Ford Mondeo near Maraekakaho. Her two young daughters, Ivy Aroha Manaena and Aleeah Faith Manaena, were in the car at the time of the accident and received leg injuries.

Sarah-Jo's husband, Reihana Manaena, told Hawke's Bay Today he was "heartbroken" to lose his wife of nearly four years but blessed his 21-month and a 3-year-old daughters survived the crash.

"They [daughters] are doing well, they came out of hospital last night. I'm just so thankful the car seats did their job."

Mr Manaena said he met Sarah-Jo through family friends and was attracted to her attitude of "living life to the fullest".

"She's such a good mother and wife, she loved her family and our God. She was a faithful, loving lady."

He said the former Havelock North High School student enjoyed being fit and healthy and ran up Te Mata Peak nearly every day.

"She was always helping out on the farm as well. That's where she was, out there that morning on her parents' farm, helping out, and was just on her way back to the house," he said tearfully.

Friends of the 2008 EIT graduate also shared their grief online.

"[Sarah-Jo] was the most amazing woman to walk the planet ... the kids have an amazing father and amazing family, they will be looked after, I love u SJ, you will never be forgotten, will always think of you xx RIP you beautiful angel," Jess Lizra posted on the Hawke's Bay Today Facebook page.

A Give A Little page has also been set up for the family here.

Police said the two girls were in approved child restraints but suffered moderate injuries and were taken to Hawke's Bay Hospital before later being discharged, as was the driver of the second vehicle, who suffered minor injuries.

"This is an absolute tragedy that sadly was preventable," Senior Sergeant Greg Brown said. "Two children are now without their mum."

Police said the driver of the Mondeo had eight airbags activate on impact, effectively cushioning her from the force of the crash, including when the vehicle hit a bank and rolled after the initial collision.

"This crash highlights the safety features of some modern vehicles that significantly enhance the ability for occupants to survive crashes when they occur," Mr Brown said. "This is a clear example of a modern vehicle reducing the impact of what was a significant head-on crash."

There were no witnesses to the crash however anyone with relevant information is asked to contact Hawke's Bay Police.

The death is being investigated by the Hawke's Bay Serious Crash Unit and would subsequently be referred to the Coroner.

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