Otorohanga death: Identity of accused kept secret

Ocean Heke was walking home from a friend's 18th birthday party when she was hit by a vehicle. Photo / Supplied
Ocean Heke was walking home from a friend's 18th birthday party when she was hit by a vehicle. Photo / Supplied

As the whanau of Otorohanga teen Ocean Heke prepare for her tangi, the identity of the man charged over her death has been kept secret.

Seventeen-year-old Ocean was walking home from a friend's 18th birthday party in Otorohanga overnight last Saturday when she was hit by a vehicle.

Her body was found at the scene at about 6am on Sunday.

This afternoon, a 21-year-old Te Kuiti man briefly appeared before Judge Simon Menzies in Hamilton District Court facing a charge of manslaughter.

The man, who entered no plea, was initially charged with dangerous driving causing death when he was arrested yesterday, but the charge was upgraded today.

While a large group of family members filled the public gallery to support him, he stood silently in the dock, between two guards, with his face turned away from the courtroom during the entire appearance.

Judge Menzies granted him bail on grounds including he not consume alcohol or drive a vehicle.

Judge Menzies also granted the man interim name suppression and declined media applications to film him after his lawyer argued that many of his wider family were still unaware of the charges.

He will reappear in the High Court at Hamilton on April 26.

A manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

According to court papers, the man is accused of causing the death of Ocean by "an unlawful act, namely breaching Section 61 (2)(A) of the Land Transport Act 1998".

That section of the act applies to a person in charge of a motor vehicle and "causes bodily injury to, or the death of, a person ... while under the influence of drink or a drug, or both, to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle".

Police are still appealing for information surrounding her death.

Meanwhile, Ocean's whanau are preparing for her tangi in the West Coast settlement of Marokopa tomorrow.

Her mother, Bella Tupu, posted on Facebook yesterday: "My heart is broken and the pain is unbearable, my children's hearts are broken and seeing this makes my heart heavy and hurt so much more.

"She was taken in a most horrific manner that I cannot begin to explain and I would never wish this on my worst enemy."

She added: "I just want to say I am so proud of our Lovey for being the beautiful person she is, I see the impact of her friendship and love by the many people who have come here to pay their respects and the many messages that have been sent, I am just simply humbled."

- NZ Herald

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