Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Longboarding tragedy: Victim's family don't blame driver over death

When the driver of the car which struck and killed Shayne Hunter's longboarding son walked through his front door, he was greeted with a big hug and a few tears.

Mr Hunter's son, Tristan, died on Friday night on the Kapiti Coast when he fell off his longboard while skating down Maungakotukutuku Rd, near Paraparaumu, and was hit by a following car in a "freak accident".

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When he got the horrible news that his son had died, Shayne and Kim Hunter were in Wanaka and rushed home to be with their other children, Maegan, Aimee and Melissa.

21-year-old longboarder Tristan Hunter pictured with his mum Kim Hunter. Photo / Supplied
21-year-old longboarder Tristan Hunter pictured with his mum Kim Hunter. Photo / Supplied

Loved ones gathered at the Hunter household in Raumati South yesterday to support one another and included in that group was the driver of the car which hit Tristan, 21.

"We had family and friends here yesterday and we felt he should be here too. We were just a bit concerned that he would be on his own and we felt it was important he was amongst friends and to know that we obviously can't and don't hold anything against him," Mr Hunter told the Herald.

"It's just a horrible situation that we all have to deal with. Ours is worse in many respects than his but he's probably got some memories he'd rather erase if he had the choice. He's coping but he's hurting."

Mr Hunter said his wife and and three sisters didn't blame the driver for Tristan's death and called it "a freak accident". Mr Hunter believes the car was following his son as a safety precaution, to make sure other vehicles didn't scream past and endanger Tristan.

Though the details of the crash aren't clear, it appears Tristan fell off going around a corner without the following car knowing, then when the driver saw the longboarder on the road, swerved to avoid hitting him, hit a bank and bounced off it then back on to Tristan.

"There were people at the top making sure cars weren't coming down so they were being safe, it was just a bugger of a thing to have happened."

Tristan with his girlfriend Isabel Herstell. Photo / Supplied
Tristan with his girlfriend Isabel Herstell. Photo / Supplied

Mr Hunter didn't know the status of the investigation being conducted by Kapiti police and the Serious Crash Unit, but if it was left up to him the driver would not be charged.

"I think he's suffering plenty and I don't know what the benefit would be for him to go through that process. I don't know what the police will do but if they ask us [whether] we would press charges, no we wouldn't press charges because we don't believe that it was anything other than a freak accident."

Everyone involved in the sport knew the risks involved, but Tristan loved it and had aspirations to become a pro longboard rider. He was regarded as one of New Zealand's best and was set to travel to California next month to chase his riding dream.

Mr Hunter said the outpouring of grief and support from people across the country was a comfort.

"I don't think he had an enemy in the world. I just think he was universally liked."

Tristan was "universally liked". Photo / Supplied
Tristan was "universally liked". Photo / Supplied

The family spent yesterday feeling "pretty numb" but Tristan's death is starting to sink in today, he said. Thankfully, family, friends and the Kapiti Coast community had rallied behind the family and were supporting them through this difficult time with plates of food, wine, beer and bags of coffee.

As well as a flood of Facebook messages and posts, a song was dedicated to the 21-year-old at the Coastella music festival in Paraparaumu over the weekend.

Hunter is at least the third longboarder to die on New Zealand roads in the past four years and his death is reigniting debate about the safety of the growing sport.

Late last year, police told the Herald that it is not unlawful to skate on a road because they are classed as vehicles but it "is just very unwise, given the significant risk of serious injury to a skateboarder if [they collide] with another vehicle on the road".

Operations manager of road policing, Inspector Peter McKennie, said police strongly advised people against skating on the road as there is a "significant risk" of serious injury.

However, because a skateboard is classified as a vehicle, skaters can be charged with careless or inconsiderate driving of a vehicle without causing injury or death and careless or inconsiderate driving of a vehicle causing death or injury.

- NZ Herald

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