A young couple killed in a horror crash in Southland had just moved to New Zealand to start a new life with their young family.
Jesse and Samie Shortland were driving back from Jesse's father's funeral in Hokitika when they were involved in a crash with another car on the Dipton-Winton Highway, near Ladbrook Rd, about 9.30pm on Sunday.
Jesse and Samie Shortland were killed along with the female driver of the other car. Police are expected to release the woman's name tonight.
Remarkably, despite their vehicle being a "total mess", the couple's children - 2-year-old son Heath and 8-month-old daughter Skylar - survived the crash, Samie Shortland's aunt, Lucille Ronald told the Herald today.
Ronald said her sister, Samie Shortland's mother, was still struggling to come to terms with what happened.
The young couple had followed Samie's parents to New Zealand from Australia to start a new life in Invercargill.
"[Samie's mum] is in bits. They recently moved back to New Zealand and the kids [Jesse and Samie] followed soon after, so they've only been back since [Samie's aunt] and her husband, arrived back in July and the kids arrived a couple of weeks later."
They all had lived in Australia a long time but felt it was time to come home, Ronald said.
They absolutely loved it and reckoned they should have done it years ago.
"She has been over there for a long time but she just wanted to come home, and Samie is married to a Kiwi so they'd been talking before that they wouldn't mind moving over here as well, so [Samie and Jesse] decided they'd come over with mum and dad."
They were pleased with the move and loving life.
"They absolutely loved it and reckoned they should have done it years ago."
The couple's young children "will be okay", she said. "Apparently the car was a real mess though."
Jesse's aunt, NZ First MP Ria Bond, said the family had now all gathered in Invercargill and were still coming to terms with everything.
"We're reeling in devastation. It's been a triple tragedy for our family and for all of our family not just me," she said.
"My nephew's father [died] last week ... we buried him on Saturday in Hokitika.
"That's why we were all there ... and unfortunately we've just lost our nephew and niece as well."
Bond said both herself and her niece, Krystal-Leigh, Jesse's sister, were due to follow the couple down to Invercargill but the airport at Hokitika was closed so they couldn't change their tickets and her cellphone battery was flat.
"So I said, 'never mind it's been decided for us, I'll keep going on the plane'."
Jesse had been in good spirits when she saw him last, she said.
"He was happy. We spent the afternoon with all of his half-brothers and sisters - all nine of them.
"We had lunch, we played 'I Spy' together. We're just a regular family. We're your everyday, regular, New Zealand family that had gone through one funeral, one tangi, and now we're going through another tangi here in Invercargill."
The family had been floored by the response from not only friends but the wider New Zealand community, Bond said. There had been so many requests for a Givealittle page to be set up - to help pay for funeral costs and a trust fund for the two orphaned children -that one would be set up tonight.
"As a family we've been overwhelmed with the messages of support we've received. People are asking us to start a Givealittle page to help with the expense and also my great nephew, Heath, and [great niece] Skylar's future."
The couple who were so deeply in love would now be buried together, she said.
"Jesse and Samie will always be together."
A funeral will be held later in the week.