Woman killed changing tyre: Family speaks of grief

By Jamie Morton, Sandra Conchie -
1 comment
Emergency services treat a woman at the scene of a crash where three people changing a tyre were hit by a car. Photo/Andrew Warner
Emergency services treat a woman at the scene of a crash where three people changing a tyre were hit by a car. Photo/Andrew Warner

The family of the woman killed and the man injured while changing a tyre on a busy Tauranga highway have spoken of their shock and grief.

The daughter-in-law of Lance Carter, who suffered critical injuries from the collision, said the family were still in shock and struggling to process what had happened.

Karyn Carter, wife of Mr Carter's son Aaron Carter, said her husband has spent much of his time at his father's bedside at Tauranga Hospital.

Mr Carter remained in a stable condition in the hospital's intensive care unit today.

''Lance is still in a very fragile state, and he will need lots of support,'' Mrs Carter said.

''He has undergone an operation to repair his shattered ankle but he will need a future operation and has lot's of other injuries, which they are trying to sort out.''

Mrs Carter said her father-in-law knew about the death of his partner Leigh Rhodes and his best mate Kenny McCrae, and told his son that he realised instantly they were in a bad way.

''Leigh was a such a lovely woman who would always welcome people into her and Lance's home. She was a very hospitable generous person,'' Mrs Carter said.

''She really loved Lance and they shared some very close friends, who are also devastated. Leigh was always so supportive to Lance. She was an amazing woman.''

Mrs Carter said Ms Rhodes' two daughters who live in Australia were making plans to head to Tauranga and were expected to arrive in the city in the next few days.

Mr Carter's friend Kenny McCrae, who was helping change the tyre, was also killed in the crash.

The 52-year-old has been remembered as a 'really great guy' as tributes flow for the Tauranga man.

This morning Gavin Emeny said his brother Mr McCrae was on his day off and had just been about to take a nap when his phone rang.

It was his friend and next-door neighbour, Mr Carter, who he'd just been having coffee with.

Some time after that, Ms Rhodes had been driving east along State Highway 29a when her SUV sustained a flat tyre just about a kilometre from Baypark Stadium.

She'd phoned Mr Carter, who was unable to drive to her because he was recovering from an operation to treat the bowel cancer he'd been diagnosed with a few months before.

"Ken and Lance are neighbours, they've got a gateway between their property, and they were on each other's doorstep all the time," Mr Emeny said.

Leigh was a such a lovely woman who would always welcome people into her and Lance's home. She was a very hospitable generous person.

"[Mr Carter] couldn't drive, he's just had a bowel cancer operation, so he rang Ken because it was Kenny's day, and said, would he go down together and change the tyre.

"Kenny, being the bloke he is, said 'let's go'."

After reaching her car, the two men parked up and began jacking up the wheel while Ms Rhodes waved traffic past.

At the time, around 4.15pm, NZME understands that Ms Rhodes' SUV, parked in the left-hand side of the east-bound dual carriageway of the causeway, was protruding just a matter of centimetres on to the road.

As traffic merged around them, the wheel had been taken off and the two men were just about to put the spare tyre back on when one car, a blue Nissan, struck all three of them.

Mr McCrae died at the scene and Ms Rhodes and Mr Carter were taken to Tauranga Hospital with critical injuries. Ms Rhodes did not survive.

Investigators are still piecing together exactly what happened, and Western Bay of Plenty road policing Sergeant Wayne Hunter said police were still keen to hear from anyone who might have witnessed the crash who they might not have already spoken to.

Mr Emeny said it was typical of his brother to have offered to help.

"He'd give you the shirt off his back - if you needed help, Kenny would be there."

His funeral service is to be held in Pyes Pa, Tauranga, on Thursday and Mr Emeny expected many of his brothers friends and family, from Tauranga, around the county and from overseas to be attending.

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