Seven-year-old Nivek Madams is frozen in time.
She's suspended in the air, part way through her jump from the three to the two on a set of hopscotch squares scribbled on the footpath. A discarded
piece of white chalk lies nearby, the sunlight is shining through her long, dark hair.
The photo was taken in a better time. Back when mother Ani Nohinohi still had her precious daughter. Back when unspeakable tragedy had yet to hit.
In the picture, Nivek is dressed in pink. It's the same colour as the cross that was placed in her honour on the side of State Highway 3.
Nearly 11 months have passed, and only a few faded smudges of pink paint remain to show which of the seven crosses on the otherwise unremarkable stretch of road from Waverley to Whanganui are for Nivek and her baby sister.
Almost exactly a year after the photo was taken and one day after her eighth birthday, Nivek and her 6-month-old sister Shady Thompson and stepfather Jeremy Thompson, 28, were killed in one of New Zealand's worst road crashes when the car they were in collided head-on with another.
Four other people, Waverley residents Ian Porteous, 80, Rosalie Porteous, 76, Ian's sister Ora Keene, 84, and Brenda Williams, 79, also died in the horror crash.
Nohinohi was the only survivor.
As she lay in Wellington Hospital fighting for her life, Nivek was losing her own.
A hastily arranged call gave Nivek's father, Kevin Madams, the chance to speak to his daughter one last time through a phone pressed to her ear as she lay in her hospital bed.
Madams, who was in prison and could not be by his daughter's side as she passed, asked for Nivek to be blessed by the hospital pastor.
By the next morning, seven lives had been snuffed out, making it the deadliest crash on New Zealand roads in 13 years.
Sole survivor had no recollection of crash
Nohinohi's last memory of that day is Nivek playing in the park while she and Thompson smoked synthetic drugs and the baby waited in the car.
She doesn't remember anything after that, just waking up in Wellington Hospital having lost three of her loved ones.
She limped into the witness box at the Whanganui District Court this morning wearing a T-shirt with a photo of her daughters on the back, steeling herself to give evidence in the coronial inquest into their deaths.
Two family members stood behind her in the box, one stroking her shoulders and ponytail.
Nohinohi said she always told Nivek to wear a seatbelt, but sometimes Nivek would respond "well you haven't got yours on so why should I?"
She said she was "synnied out" but thought Thompson, despite having had more drugs than her that day, was fine to drive.
In a statement read to the court, Nohinohi apologised to everyone affected by the crash.
"I'm very sorry about the tragic outcome for so many families and friends ... because of some poor choices, seven people lost their lives."
She said she thinks about all the victims of the crash.
When questioned at the inquest by Ian and Rosalie's son, Logan Porteous, Nohinohi cried and spoke mostly unintelligibly. The word "sorry" was all that could be made out.
How did it happen?
Jeremy Thompson had smoked at least four cones of synthetic drugs when he got behind the wheel of his Nissan Sentra for the last time.
At a relative's home in Stratford he'd smoked three before getting into the car with Nohinohi and the two girls. He stopped in Hāwera to smoke another.
Giving information at the coronial inquest in Whanganui this morning into the deaths, Detective Karl Reyland said Thompson stopped the car at the nearby McDonald's drive thru.
A witness noticed while ordering Thompson was "slurring his words and inexplicably changing his order".
The drive thru worker said in a statement both Thompson and Nohinohi were "way gone" when she saw them at the payment window.
It appeared to her that Nivek was not wearing a seat belt.
She saw Nohinohi packing a pipe with something that looked like cannabis, smoking it, and handing it to Thompson, who smoked from the pipe before driving away towards Waverley.
Not long after that, on an 85km/h posted corner, Thompson drove the car across the centre line and collided head on with the other car, driven by Rosalie Porteous.
"It was just silent"
Nothing but the sound of death hung in the air afterwards.
Witness Christine O'Byrne described in her statement the shock she felt after seeing the crash unfold before her eyes.
She was travelling behind the Porteouses' car when she saw Thompson's car come around the corner.
"I saw this car drifting over the centre line and remember thinking they need to correct themselves and then it collided with the small blue Nissan that I had been following," she said in her statement.
"There was no noise after the accident. I didn't hear any screaming or voices, it was just silent.
"It was horrible."
She remembers being alone on the road after the crash.
A pair of roadworkers arrived and asked her to go around the corner to stop oncoming traffic, but she could not bring herself to go past the scene. After they had looked for themselves, they told her to stay away from the carnage.
Giving evidence at the inquest, O'Byrne spoke of the moment she saw police take a baby capsule out of one of the cars.
"It's like 'oh my God there's a baby'."
In her statement, she said she was told to stay at the scene so police could speak to her.
"I didn't really want to drive anywhere anyway," she said.
Loving grandparents "taken too soon"
About this time last year, Ian and Rosalie Porteous were excitedly preparing for the birth of their great grandson.
Rosalie had picked out knitting patterns so she could start making clothes for Hudson, who was due in November.
Hudson's mother, Shay Starrenburg, said her grandmother wasn't able to begin the knitting before her life was stolen on June 27, 2018.
The day she and her husband died was normal. Rosalie had done a load of washing - she wrote it in her daily planner, along with a note that they needed to go to Hāwera for a medical appointment later in the morning.
They never made it that far.
The Waverley couple, along with Ian's sister Ora Keene and friend Brenda Williams were on their way to the appointment when Jeremy Thompson's car - heading south to Whanganui - crossed the centre line.
The Porteouses, Keene, and Williams, were all killed instantly in the crash, leaving their families bereft, and a gaping hole in their tight-knit community.
Starrenburg and her family found Rosalie's knitting patterns as they cleared out the couple's former home.
"We told them that [Hudson] was coming so they were all excited," Starrenburg said.
"Whenever we saw them it was the first thing they were bringing up."
Starrenburg and her sister Tristie Siffleet remembered their grandparents as being "polar opposites".
"Grandad just had a huge sense of humour. He was just really funny and had a whole lot of stories to tell all the time," Siffleet said.
"Grandad was very, very loud, very, very cheeky, and like, your typical Kiwi bloke," Starrenburg said.
They described their nana as "immaculate" and "elegant".
She was good with computers and helped out with SeniorNet, a community training network where she coached other seniors to use computers.
She loved Photoshop, and would carefully craft birthday cards for her family members.
"We could see it in her diary, she would plan it out months in advance what card she was going to make us," Starrenburg said.
After the crash, the family found folders of photos on her computer, from when she had screenshotted her relatives' faces while Skyping with them, or taken screenshots from her granddaughters' Instagram pages.
Starrenburg and Siffleet agreed Rosalie would have lived for a long time had her life not been snatched away that day.
"They were just taken too soon and it's not the right way that they should have been taken," Siffleet said.
"I'm a little anxious on the roads now to be honest ... one person doing a wrong thing can, you know, take your life, and it's scary."
"You can't help but remember it"
Stu Buckman remembers the moment he realised why the police had shown up at the Waverley Bowling Club.
He remembers it being the day of the crash when the officers showed up looking for Ian Porteous' relatives.
"That's when I clicked straight away, when they asked me if Ian Porteous had any family in town ... It wasn't great, I tell you that now," he said.
A long time member of the club, Buckman, knew all four of the occupants of the car.
"Port, yeah, he was a hard man at times. He didn't suffer fools gladly. But for me, I got on fine with him.
"They were all bloody good people."
It can be hard not to think about the tragedy for Buckman whenever he's travelling north of Waverley.
"Every time you go north there are all the crosses there, so you can't help but remember it.
"You just think about it. You don't dwell on it but you know, it's happened so you just ..."
Buckman drifted off and fell silent.
Just past the Waverley racecourse, someone has fixed a set of bowls at the base of four of the seven crosses.
Deaths 'not just numbers'
Central District road policing manager Inspector Dave White said every death had a "ripple effect" into communities, workplaces and families.
"These deaths are not just numbers, and as police officers we never lose sight of the real human loss and grieving behind every death on the road.
"Road safety is something we all have to take responsibility for. You have a responsibility to yourself, your passengers, and other road users to drive safely.
"The decisions you make as a driver impact not only on you, but on everybody else on the road."
Police were passionate about what they do, particularly saving lives and preventing harm, he said.
"Part of that is talking about road safety until people listen, and even when they are listening we will keep on talking."