Teen anger overflows at Featherston vigil

By Andrew Bonallack editor@age.co.nz -
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A teenager hugs Alan Maxwell, Wairarapa Anglican Youth co-ordinator, at St John's Church in Featherston during a vigil for Hoani Korewha and Pacer Willacy-Scott. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK
A teenager hugs Alan Maxwell, Wairarapa Anglican Youth co-ordinator, at St John's Church in Featherston during a vigil for Hoani Korewha and Pacer Willacy-Scott. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK

Agitated and abusive teenagers struggled to contain their grief and anger during a vigil in Featherston for the boys who died in a car crash the same day.

Featherston teenagers Hoani Korewha and Pacer Willacy-Scott died after the driver of the stolen car they were in fled police on Masterton's Queen St on Sunday.

The Honda Civic the teenagers were in with two others -- all aged 14 or 15 -- was going so fast, video footage showed it sent sparks flying before it collided with a pole in Masterton about 2.15am.

Police had broken off their pursuit because of the speeds reached.

Archdeacon Mae Croft opened St John's Church on Fox St for the candlelit vigil.

Around 50 attended during a still, red-sunset evening, with many teenagers holding each other for support.

Attendees lit candles and sat as Wairarapa Anglican Youth coordinator Alan Maxwell, who personally knew Hoani and Pacer, spoke about choices made by youth.

Following his talk, a number of the teenagers became boisterous and heated, swearing slogans and abuse, then leaving the church to shout challenges in the street.

"I don't want to be up here for this," said Mr Maxwell, struggling with tears.

"But that's up to each of you and the choices you make.

"People choose to do things they should have done.

"Who else are we going to be talking about in six months' time?

"I don't want to go through this again."

He said the teenagers had to understand it's "our choices, no one else's".

These "split-second decisions have eternal consequences".

People might hear a lot of "crap" about Hoani but he was "a good fella".

"He was a smart guy, he could have been running a company one day, he was so clever.

"Pacer, he was always putting his hand up to do something.

"They were incredible guys."

Mr Maxwell said the biggest tragedy in Featherston was "carrying on the crap", of youngsters "egging each other on, even though you know it's the worst thing to do".

"What are we going to do about it?"

He implored the teenagers to honour their memories by not making bad choices.

"Pacer wasn't thinking about consequences, and now he's not here."

Featherston resident Pelenato Viane spoke up, saying it only took a second to make a bad choice and you were gone.

"It's time for us to get together as a community."

Another youth coordinator, Simon Nelson, said he knew the boys and had a lot of time for them.

He remembered when they put down a hangi at Featherston School.

He said those making the most noise were the ones hurting.

"It's their way of coping -- you've just got to see past the smoke and mirrors."

After the vigil, Mr Maxwell said he was working with teenagers bored with nothing to do in the summer, and no part-time jobs.

"The milk runs, the paper runs, it's all gone.

"By the time I was 16, I had had six years of working.

"These guys have no opportunity, and we're too busy being adults, too busy looking forward."

He said Featherston has been "amazing" for supporting youth.

"The strength in a small town is being small, but it also means it hurts more."

Pacer Willacy-Scott's grandfather Roger Scott shared his sorrow on Facebook at the "untimely" death.

"Our thoughts and memories will always be treasured and we will miss you dearly. Love Nana and Grandad."

South Wairarapa mayor Adrienne Staples said any loss of life, especially young life, was very sad.

"It is such a waste of potential."

She said it was not fair to blame the community.

"Featherston community rallied around youth initiatives last year. There has to be some responsibility for the choices that young people make.

"But these young people are somebody's children, mothers and fathers are grieving."

The surviving two occupants of the vehicle were yesterday in a stable condition in Wairarapa Hospital.

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