Last year was one to remember - or should that be to forget - with a number of challenges facing Northland and New Zealand.
As part of our look back on 2020 the Northern Advocate is catching up with some of those who made the news last year.
"How did I get here," was the first thought that struck Whangārei man Mana Ashby when he roused from an induced coma after being the front seat passenger in a fatal crash.
Ashby was asleep when the car he was in ploughed into a power pole on Maunu Rd - 400m from Whangārei Hospital's A&E - on November 23. The back seat passenger, Stacey Sadlier, 18, tragically died as a result.
The 26-year-old has since relied on accounts relayed by family and friends which described how people first on the scene and emergency services had saved their loved one's life.
"I just keep thinking, thank you, thank you," he said. "I can't give enough thanks to everyone for their love."
Ashby's survival is the second time he has defied death on the road. The talented rugby league player was seriously hurt when he fell asleep at the wheel running a family errand in 2012.
"I'm so appreciative that I can still be here and that I get to make more memories with my family and friends," Ashby said.
He had spent the day of the crash catching up with family over a Sunday roast when Ashby's childhood friend, the driver, Stacey, and the driver's relative paid Sadlier a visit. The pair enjoyed a long-awaited reunion as well as a reintroduction to a now grown Sadlier.
"I hadn't seen Stacey since he was just a kid. He was a cool fulla and respectful as well. They both are," he said.
The devoted Te Rūnanga Ō Kirikiriroa youth coach remembered he wanted to be fresh for work in Hamilton on Monday but because of prior exhaustion that day and his injuries from the crash, his memory past this point was blank.
Ashby couldn't recall why he joined the late night ride with the others.
"I was crashed out the whole time because I was trying to rest up for work on Monday. I don't remember anything," Ashby said.
Instead the story of the accident played out physically for Ashby who battled severe injuries - which included a brain haemorrhage.
"There is still heaps of bruising. There is a big welt on my thigh and my whole upper body was bruised. The vertebrates in my back are stuffed," he said.
But the self-described happy and positive Ashby chose not to dwell on physical reminders. Instead solace is about his return to work in Hamilton.
"No matter the injuries and experiences we have had in our lives you can still go up," he said. "The kids I support are inspirational. I really love my job, I've found my place in life."
And it's family pulling him towards that goal, he said.
"There are no limits when you are loved and supported by others. It's a beautiful thing to wake up happy because you have so many people in your corner."
Ashby commands an inner strength which, he said, raised his 18-year-old self out of his wheelchair 10 months after his car left the road when he fell asleep at the wheel on the way to Hikurangi.
"I had never fallen asleep driving before but I fell asleep after a big day swimming. I was driving to get some clothes for my younger siblings," he said. "I had a serious head and back injury from that one."
He was told by doctors his Otago University bachelor of commerce degree would have to wait until he had made a full recovery.
"Four days later I got back to university and later graduated with my degree. When your mind is strong you can re-adjust yourself and still go up," Ashby said.
■ Twenty-eight people died on Northland's roads in 2020, one fewer than the previous year.