Crash victim was a 'friend to everyone'

By Sandra Conchie -
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Leigh Rhodes and Lance Carter.
Leigh Rhodes and Lance Carter.

Friends and family of a Tauranga man badly injured in a highway smash that killed his partner and his best friend have spoken of their shock and grief.

Lance Carter, who suffered serious injuries, remains in Tauranga Hospital intensive care unit in a stable condition.

His partner Leigh Antoinette Rhodes, 60, and their 52-year-old friend Kenny McCrae were killed.

Carter and McCrae had been changing a tyre on Rhodes' vehicle on State Highway 29A between Baypark and Maungatapu at about 4.15pm on Friday when another vehicle struck the trio.

McCrae died instantly and Rhodes died in Tauranga Hospital.

Karyn Carter, the daughter-in-law of Lance Carter, said the family was still in shock and struggling to process what had happened.

Karyn Carter said her husband Aaron had spent much of his time at his father's bedside at Tauranga Hospital, and liasing with Rhodes' side of the family.

"Lance is still in a very fragile state, and he will need lots of support," she said.

"He has undergone an operation to repair his shattered ankle but will need a future operation. Lance has other injuries too, which the doctors are trying to sort out."

"Lance is an incredible person and he has been like a dad to me, and lots of others, ever since I started going out with Aaron. It's so tragic."

Karyn Carter said her father-in-law knew about the death of his partner of more than seven years, and also his best mate.

"Lance realised instantly they were both in a bad way. He feels so, so gutted for Kenny's family," she said.

"Dad is quite devastated by the loss of two people so close him," Aaron Carter said.

Doctors had told his father that he was was not expected to be up and walking again for about 12 months, he 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. She really loved Lance and was always so supportive to him. She was an amazing woman," Karyn Carter said.

Rhodes' two daughters who live in Australia were still making plans to head to Tauranga and were expected to arrive in the next few days, she said.

Rhodes was a sale assistant at K&K Fashions store in Bayfair for the past three years.

Work colleague Carol Brinkman, speaking on behalf of the staff, said Leigh was a ''friend to everyone and such a beautiful lady''.

''No words can make this real. Leigh will be greatly missed."

Close friend Yvonne Baldock said she had known Rhodes for almost 11 years, but had also known McCrae since he was 10, and had babysat him.

Baldock said she learned the devastating news while out of town for the weekend, and last spoke to Rhodes on Thursday.

"I'm still in total shock. Leigh was a lovely lady. She was such a generous warm person.

"Leigh was a very good cook and an amazing housekeeper, and loved caring for other people. She and Lance had lots of great friends. If Lance turned up with a bunch of friends no matter what the hour she would get up and cook them something."

"That's the sort of person she was," she said.

"Leigh was a beautiful lady and always took great pride in her appearance. She was always immaculately dressed and never went anywhere without wearing makeup. Leigh was
famous for her makeup and her love of the colour red. She was an amazing person."

Baldock said Kenny was a "great guy" who was renowned for making people laugh.

"Kenny was a great jokester and awesome storyteller. He was always the life and soul of any party. I really feel so sad for [Kenny's wife] Sharlene. It's an absolute tragedy," she said.

Baldock said funeral arrangements for Ms Rhodes were yet to be finalised.

A funeral service for McCrae will be held at Ataahua Garden Venue, 644 Pyes Pa Rd from 1pm on Thursday, followed by private cremation.

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