Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Returning to Rarotonga 'bittersweet' for Stephanie McHale's young family one year on

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Steph and Ben McHale in Rarotonga. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Steph and Ben McHale in Rarotonga. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Rarotonga was always a special place for Ben and Stephanie McHale.

It is where they married, a place they lived for six months, and a place they talked about returning to with son Gareth.

Today, a year after Mrs McHale died in a car crash near Rotorua, Dr McHale will spend the day doing the things they loved to do, in the place they loved.

The 29-year-old was killed in a two-vehicle crash on State Highway 5, just south of the Hemo Gorge Rd-Old Taupo Rd intersection on October 14 last year.

Gareth, just 6 weeks old at the time, was in the car but escaped uninjured.

Dr McHale is in Rarotonga at the moment working as a doctor in a role which includes GP and emergency work.

He and Gareth are in Rarotonga for 11 weeks.

Mrs McHale's mum Sheryl Pearson is staying with them, and her sisters Charlotte and Cati are also there for a short time.

"We are all going to spend the day together as a family and do many of the things that were special to Steph and us. My parents arrive in two weeks and it will be great to spend time and remember Steph with them too," Dr McHale told the Rotorua Daily Post.

The pair married in Rarotonga in 2011 and lived and worked in the country for six months in 2014.

"This was such a special place for us and we always dreamt of returning to live here with Gareth. I decided that despite the tragic circumstance I was going to come back with Gareth as we had planned."

He said returning to Rarotonga wouldn't have been possible without the support of his amazing family.

"It is bitter-sweet coming back but something that has been great for all of us. We all feel closer to Steph here."

Dr McHale described their son, now 1 year old, as a "very happy, relaxed little guy".

"He is absolutely loving island life."

Dr McHale said the McHale and Pearson families also wanted to thank their friends and the Rotorua community for the support over the past 12 months. He also paid tribute to his family.

"I am very lucky to have such a supportive family that has allowed Gareth and I to overcome any challenges we have been faced with throughout the last year.

"I will be forever grateful for everything they have done for me. I can't imagine how I would have got through the last year without them."

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