Featherston families linked in tragic case of deja vu

By Kirsty Johnston, Olivia Carville

Hoani Korewha, 15, and Pacer Willacy-Scott, 15, died after their friend crashed a stolen car following a short police pursuit in Masterton. Photo / Supplied
Hoani Korewha, 15, and Pacer Willacy-Scott, 15, died after their friend crashed a stolen car following a short police pursuit in Masterton. Photo / Supplied

In a haunting case of deja vu, two of the families scarred by Sunday's horror crash were involved in an accident with eerily similar circumstances two decades ago.

In both fatal crashes, the unlicensed teenage drivers were from the same Featherston family - and the teenage victims were also from the same Featherston family.

"This is another car being crashed by another generation of boys from the same town," one of the victims' families told the Weekend Herald .

"It's kind of like history repeating in a really surreal way."

Early on Sunday, Hoani Korewha, 15, and Pacer Willacy-Scott, 15, died after their friend crashed a stolen car following a short police pursuit in Masterton. The 14-year-old driver - who cannot be named for legal reasons - did not have a licence and is facing charges.

Twenty years ago the driver's uncle, 16 at the time , crashed a car and killed one of his teenage friends, Daniel Korewha, while also driving without a licence.

Daniel died on December 21, 1996, at 17. His father is an uncle to Hoani Korewha.

When Daniel Korewha's family learned the identity of the 14-year-old boy who was behind the wheel in Sunday's crash that killed their young relative, they felt the horror of deep recognition.

"We were kind of blown away," his sister, Katie Korewha, 32, says.

"Obviously, it brought everything back up for us after all these years."

Daniel Korewha. Photo / Supplied
Daniel Korewha. Photo / Supplied

On December 20, 1996, Dorothea Korewha stood on the front steps of her house and waved goodbye to her only son, Daniel, who was driving north with two of his friends for the summer break. He was on his way to Tauranga to see his girlfriend and then up to Auckland for an Alanis Morissette concert.

His friend, Steven Dejoux, had a full licence and was driving the trio in his red ute. Dorothea remembers the sun was warm on her skin as she stood on the step, waving as the car pulled away.

The following morning, two officers were standing on the same front steps telling her that her only son was dead.

"But he's 18 tomorrow," she recalls saying to the officers in disbelief.

The ute the teenagers had been travelling in crashed into trees north of Rata along State Highway 1 about 6am, according to a 1996 newspaper brief from The Evening Standard. Daniel died at the scene.

Steven Dejoux was not driving and the then-unlicensed teenage driver, who the Weekend Herald is not naming to avoid identifying his nephew, was not injured in the accident and was never convicted, Dorothea says. Police could not confirm details about the fatal 1996 crash because the file relating to the case was 20 years old and archived off-site, a police spokesman said.

Flowers left at the crash site on Masterton's Queen St. Photo / Andrew Bonallack
Flowers left at the crash site on Masterton's Queen St. Photo / Andrew Bonallack

When Dorothea found out the driver of Sunday's crash was the nephew of the man who crashed the car her son had died in, she said it was "gutting and mind-boggling".

"A whole lot of feelings I don't want to have rose up, I just couldn't comprehend it. They were both unlicensed; they were both too young," she said. "We don't hold anything against the family. Kids are kids and they go out there hooning around thinking they're bulletproof, but we just wish somebody would have learned something."

Daniel Korewha was one of the youngest qualified drain-layers in the country and had intentions to work alongside his father in the family business. Instead, he was buried on Christmas Eve 1996.

"It's been 20 years, but nothing has ended for us. He was our only son and he is greatly missed," Dorothea said.

She struggles to recall parts of his funeral, the memory lost in grief, but said she remembers everything about the day he died, including the exact time the officers knocked on her front door: 11.15am. "My husband flew around the room crashing into the walls and I just stood there with my knees knocking together for 30 minutes, not doing anything."

Korewha said her son's death had "destroyed our family". But with time came forgiveness.

Her family holds no bitterness or resentment towards the driver of the crash that killed her son and Dorothea says they are now praying for the 14-year-old driver from Sunday's crash. "We hope he will take one day at a time as this is a huge burden for young shoulders to bear. Our prayers are for him to learn from this and go forward and make something good of his life."

- NZ Herald

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