Life without Stephanie: The crash that shattered their lives

By Kelly Makiha, \ -
Funeral for Stephanie McHale.  Photo/File
Funeral for Stephanie McHale. Photo/File

Dr Ben McHale knows life has delivered him a tough blow with the death of his wife six months ago in a car crash. But when he looks at his 7-month-old son, who was also in the car, he realises he is lucky.

Stephanie McHale died when the car she and their then 6-week-old baby, Gareth, were in was involved in a collision with another car at Hemo Gorge on State Highway 5, south of Rotorua on October 14.

A man will appear in Rotorua District Court today charged with careless driving causing death and careless driving causing injury.

Yesterday Dr McHale told the Rotorua Daily Post he and Gareth were doing as well as cou"ld be expected.

Obviously we have had a lot of hard days but, with Gareth, there have been a lot of good days too. It help"s get me through.
Dr Ben McHale

Mrs McHale, a physiotherapist who was active in several local sporting clubs, was 29 when she was killed. Gareth and their dog Max escaped the crash unscathed.

Her death sent shockwaves through Rotorua - with more than 800 people attending her funeral.

Dr McHale said Gareth was doing really well. He is at home-based childcare two days a week, and Dr McHale has a lot of support from Mrs McHale's sisters, Char and Cati Pearson, her mum, Sheryl Pearson, and his parents, Raema Mackay and Malcolm McHale.

Scene of the crash in the Hemo Gorge last October.  Photo/File
Scene of the crash in the Hemo Gorge last October. Photo/File


"I would not have survived if it weren't for them."

The proud father, who has now returned to his job as a doctor at the Rotorua Hospital Emergency Department, said his son was doing everything he should at that age.

"He's a happy relaxed little guy and sleeps well. I would be in trouble if he didn't sleep."

Despite the tragedy, Dr McHale said he looked at his son and knew he was lucky.

"It could have been so much worse with him being in the car. I don't know what I would have done if the situation was different and he was taken too. We are very lucky."

Dr McHale, a champion cyclist, said he had not done much cycling in the past six months but instead had done lots of running training, with Gareth in the pushchair, as he prepares for a big race later in the year.

He and his son will temporarily move to the Cook Islands in September where Dr McHale will take up a post at the local hospital working in the emergency and outpatient departments for a three-month stint.

Mrs McHale's sisters and his parents will go with him for different parts of the three months to help care for Gareth.

While there, he will take on the Round Rarotonga Road Race, a 32km race around the island which he won in 2014.

Mrs McHale and her sisters dominated the women's section of the race in 2014 with Char coming first, Cati second and Mrs McHale third.

Dr McHale said he and his wife always talked about going back to the islands so he decided to still go and take Gareth.

"We lived there for six months Steph and I. We always said we wanted to go back so we decided to do it still."

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