On New Year's Day, a Wellington father received a knock at the door and was met by two police officers with "news no parent should ever have to receive".
His son, who loved dinosaurs and was just a month short of his 7th birthday, had been killed in a head-on crash while on holiday in Whangārei.
Six-year-old Myka Tuala is the first road fatality of 2021. He died on State Highway 1 at Hikurangi, just north of Whangārei, at about 4.20pm on New Year's Day.
Myka's father, Jay Tuala, shared in a Facebook post the heartbreaking moment he received the news of his boy's death. Permission was given to the Herald to use the content of the post.
"On the first day of 2021, there was a knock on our front door," he wrote.
"Two police officers stood to deliver news no parent should ever have to receive.
"Our dear son had been involved in a head-on collision in Whangārei earlier that afternoon and had passed away."
Myka was the only child of Jay and Charlotte Tuala. He would have turned 7 on February 6.
Speaking through a family friend, Charlotte Tuala said her son was in Northland for the break with family, where he usually went for the school holidays.
A Givealittle page set up to support the grieving family said the "happy, kind and gentle" young boy was adored by all who knew him.
His personality was a true reflection of the loving family environment in which he grew up, the page said.
A tribute from Paparārangi Kindergarten said Myka attended the kindy from March 2017 until he started at Paparangi School in February 2019.
"He was a loving boy that loved dinosaurs, zombies, Angry Birds and his bright yellow sunhat and he had a big smile that would light up the room. Our thoughts go out to his parents and family at this very sad time."
Other friends and family shared their grief online.
"Words can't even explain the sadness I felt when hearing about Myka. I am shattered for you guys. Sending all my love," said one.
Another wrote: "No parent should ever have to bury their child or children way before their time."
Five other people were injured in the January 1 collision in Hikurangi, between George St and Jordan Valley Rd.
All are now in a stable condition. One woman is being treated in Auckland.
A police spokesperson said inquiries into the circumstances of the crash were ongoing.
The Ministry of Transport last week released the provisional road toll for 2020, revealing a "heartbreaking" 320 people died in crashes — on average six people every week.
Myka's death was the first on Northland roads this year, after 28 people died in 2020.
Northland Police Sergeant Ryan Gray said there had been few problems on the roads over the New Year period. However, he warned against complacency as people return home from trips away during the New Year period.
"I want to thank everyone for their good behaviour and their patience, but the holiday period isn't over yet. Don't let complacency slip in," he said.
"Look after each other, don't drink and drive, and have plenty of rest stops."