Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Heartbroken father celebrates fish-mad son killed in crash

Leroy Brown has been remembered as a fishing-mad boy who loved the water. Photo / Supplied by family
Leroy Brown has been remembered as a fishing-mad boy who loved the water. Photo / Supplied by family

Leroy Brown was only 4 years old when he speared his first flounder.

He was 3 when he began heading down to the Mahurangi River with his father, Heath, whose property backs on to the popular fishing spot.

Mr Brown choked back tears this afternoon as he recalled his son's love of fishing.

"I was just keen myself when I was his age and ever since he was 3 he was out with me fishing. He told me to take the sinker off here or he'd throw a line over and a minute or two later he'd have a fish or he'd tell me where to throw the line over. He was catching flounder with his hands."

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Leroy was travelling with his sister, Elyse, 7, mother Leonie Angela Berger, 45, also of Warkworth, and her friend, Leonard Marshall Mackey, 59, from Ashburton, who was driving, when their car and a car being driven by a Waitomo local collided head-on, on State Highway 3.

Funeral arrangements were still up in the air as he was hoping to pick his daughter up from Starship hospital on Friday, by which time they'd know more about the plans, Mr Brown said.

Ms Berger and Mr Mackey had been friends for about 15 years and knew each other through their love of rodeos and horse-related eventing, he said.

As for Leroy, he was a kid who just loved being outdoors but fishing was his biggest love, including the ITM Fishing Show.

Leroy started fishing with his dad when he was three-years-old. Photo / Supplied by family
Leroy started fishing with his dad when he was three-years-old. Photo / Supplied by family

"As soon as that was on he would watch that, and I promised him I would take him kingfishing. When his grandfather was out he was always out with him as well. He was pretty keen when the tide was coming in, he was like 'Dad let's go and get a flounder'. He just loved the water. He knew where to find them, the flounder, at the bottom of the farm. One day we were working on a farm and he came back with a big flounder he had speared."

Mr Brown said he last saw his son on Tuesday last week when he picked him and Elyse up from Warkworth Primary School.

"I took them down by the Mahurangi River. We spent a bit of time by the river there and he gave me a bag of acorns from off the acorn tree at school that day and told me to plant them which I haven't done as yet and he just said hooray and walked away and waved to me, and done it a couple more times and then he was gone, that was the last time I saw him."

Leroy is the great, great, great, great grandchild of Warkworth town founder, John Anderson Brown, so the whole town had been affected by the deaths.

Mr Brown said he visited the scene of the crash on Sunday so he could see where his son died and try and make sense of what happened.

He left a toy bumblebee attached to a fence in memory of his boy.

In a funeral notice published in today's Herald, Mr Brown wrote: "You have brought us so much energy and enjoyed everything in life. Fond memories which will last forever -- Thank you -- even teach us new tricks catching fish. You are a shining star little man, not a second will go by without you being in everyone's hearts. Keep shining bright our little playmate."

- NZ Herald

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