Stephen McPherson always worried about drivers on Helvetia Rd near his Pukekohe home.
He usually avoided the stretch, concerned he'd be knocked off his motorbike by an "idiot" driver - someone speeding, someone drunk or drugged.
But for some reason on May 24 the 36-year-old took the route he feared.
He almost made it home, but with about 2km of his journey to go he was wiped off the road by a driver who had been drinking and using methamphetamine.
Today his bereft partner and mother speak out for the first time about McPherson's death in a bid to make sure he is not "just another road statistic".
The morning Stephen John McPherson died, he embarked on a journey to create life.
Hours later he was lying dead in a paddock.
Alone in the cold and dark, his future cruelly taken from him in seconds.
Stephen and his partner Rebecca Smidt were trying for their first child and they were about to start IVF treatment to make their dream of a family a reality.
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On May 24 Stephen left his home in Pukekohe and headed to a fertility clinic to drop in samples, and then went to work in Onehunga.
He and Rebecca were excited to become parents.
They already have young nephews who they adore, so they could not wait to have their own babies and add to their close-knit extended family.
Together for 13 years they had travelled, lived abroad and built their dream home.
Life was good - as close to perfect as it comes.
But at 8.22pm on May 24 that life was shattered.
Stephen texted Rebecca as he left work - they had a rule that he made contact when he was on his way so she knew when to expect him and she wouldn't worry about him riding home at night.
It should have taken him about an hour, so when he didn't appear at the front door Rebecca started to fret.
"We always worried about Helvetia Rd, he never really took that route, he was worried about idiot drivers on the road, so I still wonder why he went that way," she said.
"He was always so anti drink driving, he would always come and pick me up from town even if I had one drink … so it's really ironic that he was killed be someone doing that, it's ridiculous."
Rebecca started to check online to see if there were any crashes or traffic jams that would have held him up.
There was nothing, so she decided to go and look for him.
She'd almost done this a few times in the past, picked up her keys and headed for the door only to hear him come up the driveway.
But this time, there was no sign of Stephen.
"I left him a note to say call me if you get home and I left the house … I turned the corner and onto the street where he'd died and there was a police cordon," Rebecca recalled.
"I got out and said to the police officer 'my partner didn't come home'.
"I could smell the burning rubber, I could see there was a scene further down the road, I could see flashing lights."
A police officer told her to wait at the cordon and went to speak to people at the actual scene.
As she waited Rebecca looked on a local community Facebook page and saw posts about a fatal crash on the road.
She said she "just knew" it was Stephen, and she immediately called his mother Sue.
"Then police and Victim Support people started walking towards me … They asked me what Stephen was wearing and what his licence plate was … they said Stephen had been injured and he'd not survived … I just collapsed," she said.
Rebecca and Sue spoke to the Herald two weeks before sentencing of the driver who killed Stephen.
They had not spoken before, their grief too raw.
But they wanted Stephen's name to be known, for his face to be remembered - and for people to take notice of his death.
"Stephen wasn't big on putting himself in the public eye but this feels like the right thing to do," said Rebecca.
"I just don't want Stephen to be another road statistic, he was an incredible person and so many people loved him and he is deeply, deeply missed.
"I don't want to look back and feel like he disappeared into thin air.
"He was a good person and he deserves to be seen, he deserves to have his story told and for people to know he lived an awesome life … He was loved so much, and this is heartbreaking."
The day Rebecca spoke to the Herald on what would have been her and Stephen's 13th anniversary.
She began to cry as she spoke about his last day of life.
She had left her laptop at home so had to return to get it.
"He was just getting ready for work," she said.
"He worked at GoPro and he started later in the day.
"We usually talked a couple of times during the day anyway but on that day I saw him again ... I spoke to him on his last break, we talked about what we were going to have for dinner - he always cooked.
"The last thing he said to me was 'record the league'."
Rebecca would never see Stephen again after leaving home that fateful day.
She could not bear to see him lifeless.
She could not bear to identify his body when he was recovered from the crash site.
"Sue did it, I couldn't - but they said someone had to," said Rebecca.
It was a moment Sue will never forget.
"He just looked like he was asleep - he had no injuries to his face," she said.
"I didn't believe it until I saw him.
'You read about these things but you don't take much notice and you think 'we'll never become one of those families'."
When the women found out the driver who killed Stephen had been drinking, they were shocked.
But when they found out the driver was more than three times over the limit and had methamphetamine in his system, they were devastated - and so angry.
Exacerbating their hurt and rage, the driver has no memory of the crash.
"Stephen did nothing wrong. He was five minutes from home and this bastard who was nearly three times over the limit didn't even know he'd hit him," said Sue.
"He didn't have any idea who Stephen was until he was told in the hospital.
"For him, it's just words that he's killed a person - but he's killed our Stephen."
Sue said before she found out the full facts of the case, she almost felt for the driver who hit her son.
"I think at the beginning we all thought there was some possibility of some sort of forgiveness - maybe he'd had one drink too many or made a mistake," she explained.
"But no, not after we found out.
"He had a number of chances to do the right thing but he went home, and he went out again - that's when he killed Stephen.
"There's nothing he could ever say to me that I would want to hear … It's too late to say anything, sorry mate!"
Rebecca said the fatal collision was "completely avoidable" which was "absolutely sickening".
"This was not an accident, it was a decision - he made a decision to leave home and he killed Stephen," she said.
"He's still got his family - we don't.
"Stephen was a huge part of my family, Stephen was amazing and now everything is just broken, in an instant."
Stephen's father John and twin sisters Nicola and Jane were also extremely angry about what had happened.
The three siblings were close and the women are struggling with the loss of their "baby brother".
"They're not doing very well, they are mad, they are angry," said Sue.
"I'm really bitter and I'm not that sort of person, I'm the sort of person who is always on the side of the underdog.
"But this time, I'm not. I've never been a vengeful person but this has just changed my whole outlook."
Rebecca said every day since Stephen died had been "horrible".
"It's agonising," she said.
"I don't know if I have reached the angry stage, I am still dead inside.
"It's a bit overwhelming for me."
"Our lives will never, ever be the same," Sue added.
"I don't know if the driver has any comprehension of what he has done …"
Rebecca wanted people to know that Stephen was the love of her life, that he was loved by his family and hers, that he was the centre of her world.
"He was kind and he worked hard, he loved life," she said.
"He was really content; I learned a lot from him about being happy with what I have.
"He liked really simple things - swimming, walking the dog, being around family, barbecues."
Rebecca and Sue both read Victim Impact Statements in court when the driver who killed Stephen was sentenced.
William Junior Conrad, also 36, was jailed for two years and eight months for killing Stephen.
He pleaded guilty to three charges - dangerous driving causing death, causing death while driving with excess breath alcohol and causing the death of a person while in control of a vehicle while his blood contained a controlled substance.
The court heard that he had consumed seven or eight Heineken beers at home before driving "to get bread".
During that drive, he crossed the centreline on Helvetia Rd and ploughed into Stephen's bike.
Stephen tried to take evasive action but he could not avoid Conrad's larger vehicle.
He was thrown from his bike and landed in a paddock some distance away.
Conrad's ute came to rest nose down in a ditch on the side of the road, McPherson's motorbike pinned underneath the front.
Blood testing done at the hospital after the crash showed Conrad had an alcohol level of 138 micrograms per 100 millilitres of blood.
The legal limit is 50 micrograms of alcohol.
He also had methamphetamine in his system.
As he stood in the dock today, eight members of Stephen's family stood across the courtroom - one after the other - to read Victim Impact Statements.
Rebecca was first, then her mother Ruth and sister Emma.
Stephen's twin sisters Nicola and Jane then spoke, followed by Jane's husband Rob and finally, Sue.
Their words were powerful, reducing many in the courtroom to tears as they spoke bravely, clearly and with absolute passion.
"I wish I died that night," Rebecca said, holding a piece of Stephens clothing tightly to her chest.
"Part of me was killed right then and I feel like I will never ever recover … 13 years of being together all the time, wiped out in an instant.
"Now I am alone."
Smidt said she could not eat or sleep, she was struggling in all parts of her life and every day was "agonising".
"I lost my rock," she told the court.
"He was a wonderful innocent man simply trying to come home from work.
"So many people are affected by this and we all have life sentences that we never wished
for ... Every second is agonising ... I am extremely lonely all the time."
Smidt, flanked by her sister as she read, said "nothing will ever be the same" without her soulmate.
"Birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, every single thing that was fun and happy ... I feel like I will never be happy again," she said.
"Stephen was my everything."
Rebecca's mother and sister spoke of losing a man who was part of their family - a much
loved friend, brother and son - and seeing his partner suffer.
They were "disgusted" by Conrad's actions and the choices he made the night he killed Stephen.
"The loss of Steve, is always top of mind … all we wish for is Steve to be here … the anguish of feeling this is unbearable," Emma said.
Nicola McPherson, the elder of the twin siblings, flew in from Australia for sentencing.
She said her grief impacted "all aspects" of her life and she was constantly engulfed by feelings of guilt, anger and depression.
She was angry her brother was gone, angry Rebecca's future had been stolen, angry that her parents were broken-hearted and angry that the death was completely preventable.
"He died alone in the dark … no one had the chance to say goodbye, no one had the chance to tell him how important and special he is … tell him we loved him," she said, before turning her thoughts to Conrad.
"Your decision killed Stephen and has destroyed so many other lives."
She said she had an "overwhelming sense of regret" for not telling her brother how much she loved him.
"I feel guilty that Stephen was the one to die, if one of us had to die it should have been me … I live overseas, my family do not see me every day … Stephen was dad's best mate … I don't have children … Stephen should still be here."
She said she struggled to sleep and was haunted by McPherson's last moments - him being hit by Conrad's ute and dying alone in the dark on the country road.
"I'm not sure you will ever truly understand what you have done … I just wish you had never driven that night and this had never happened."
Jane said Conrad had destroyed every person in her family and even her young children were impacted.
Her youngest went to sleep most nights with damp hair from tears she cried while holding him tightly at night.
She worried about her own husband being killed and was crushed to see her parents struggle so much.
"You killed my brother, four months later I still find this incredibly hard to believe," she said.
"I hope that you think of what you did every single day, I hope you think of my brother every day."
She said McPherson "absolutely loved life" and had his whole life ahead of him.
"No one wants to think of someone they love dying alone, frightened and in so much pain - but this is the situation you have left us in," she said.
She then blasted Conrad.
"You were wasted, this was a deliberate act, you made a decision … you knew you were completely wasted and shouldn't have been driving, but you did anyway."
Sue read the final statement.
She had been at every court hearing to make sure Conrad saw her, knew who she was and what she had lost.
Her husband John was not there, he was too afraid of how he would react, what he might do.
It was too much for him to sit and hear the details of the brutal death of his "best mate".
Sue stood alone, brave and strong but certainly deeply , and spoke of identifying her son's body, her daughters carrying their brother's coffin.
"Every single night I go to bed but I don't sleep ... As soon as I close my eyes I am haunted by what might have happened," she said through tears.
"I hear Stephen's screams, Stephen hitting the road … you didn't even know you'd hit him.
"His death has left a gaping hole in our family … I am angry, very angry … I miss my boy every single minute of every single day.
"My family is paying the price of your utterly selfish decision to drive.
"I can never forget or never forgive you for what you've done."
Both women hoped that by sharing Stephen's story he would be remembered - and that people like Conrad who drove under the influence, would think twice.
They also hoped to see changes to the law to stop people driving after taking drugs.
In New Zealand it is an offence to drive while impaired by drugs and with evidence in the bloodstream of a qualifying drug — including controlled substances.
But the presence of a qualifying drug alone is not sufficient for an offence; there must first be impairment as demonstrated by unsatisfactory performance of the compulsory impairment test.
If a person fails a compulsory impairment test, police have the option of charging them if there is sufficient supporting evidence.
"Something has to change," said Sue.
Rebecca said it was terrifying to think of how many others were driving after using methamphetamine.
"It's just sickening, absolutely sickening," she said.
"You don't know if you're safe on the road or what state other drivers are in."
Rebecca said the sentence was what the family expected.
"It doesn't change the fact Stephen is gone, and that's something we live with every minute," she said.