A motorcyclist who died after being struck in a hit and run last week was the lone survivor of an horrific house fire 17 years ago that claimed the lives of his dad and siblings.
New dad Eru Patuwai, 21, died over Labour Weekend after he was critically injured when his Harley Davidson motorbike was struck by a van in Weymouth on October 20.
Police say the van fled the crash scene and they are continuing to hunt for the driver.
Patuwai, who had accomplished his dream of becoming a father just five weeks earlier, was on life support for five days before succumbing to his injuries.
It was a second tragedy to hit his family after the Manurewa man was the only child to survive a catastrophic house fire in 2003 a week before Christmas.
The deadly blaze broke out in the family home in Patutahi, 15km from Gisborne, and claimed the life of his father, Harry Grant, big sister Kihini, 6, and little brother Watene, 3.
His mother, Louana Patuwai, was jailed for 18 months after failing to provide the necessaries of life.
The court heard she was drinking with her partner at the local pub when a pot on the stove caught alight. Grant died trying to save the children from the blaze.
Patuwai spent years with the burns unit at Middlemore Hospital healing from his injuries. Treatment had continued into adulthood with the young father needing a surgical procedure on his scarred body earlier this year.
His aunt, Vanessa Pahau, told the Herald the family, in particular his partner of seven years, had been left devastated by his death.
"It's pretty sad. It's so hard. Such a short life," she said. "It's probably one of the hardest times of our lives and it's his little boy that we want to look after now. He's only a baby."
Describing the new dad as having a "very challenged childhood" after losing nearly all his family when he was just 4 years old, her nephew's life had finally become complete with the birth of his little son, Arai.
"That's all he wanted," said Pahau. "I met his nurse who looked after him in the burns unit recently and he always told her his biggest dream was having his own family. That was his goal. Five weeks ago our phones were hot with all his pics of baby and how proud he was to have a little king. He was so happy to share it with us all."
Pahau said after such a terrifically traumatic time he was really thrilled to have a child with his school sweetheart.
"Finally his life was complete with his beautiful wahine of seven years and their newborn son," she said.
His aunt said his grieving partner was taking the loss very hard.
"No, she's not coping at all which is hard for her family because he's been part of their lives for seven years ever since they started hanging out at school," said Pahau.
On top of this his mother was once more reliving heartbreak having now lost her entire family. "She's got no kids now," she said.
Covid and an unrelated accident involving his grandmother had also complicated tangi arrangements with extended family in Australia unable to travel in time for the farewell planned for Friday.
In the meantime family in New Zealand were concentrating on doing what they could to support his little boy, setting up a givealittle page to raise money for his future.
Pahau appealed to the person behind the wheel of the van to come forward.
"This person has broken many, many hearts so please do the right thing."
Counties Manukau CIB detective senior sergeant Albie Alexander said police were continuing to investigate the circumstances of the serious crash between a van and motorcycle in Weymouth.
"Police are following strong lines of inquiry to locate the van driver involved in the crash and I am confident we will locate this individual," he said. "Our thoughts are with Eru's whānau and friends at this time."
On the night of the accident police described the van involved in the accident as a light blue people mover-type vehicle with a broken rear window. It was last seen travelling west on Weymouth Rd.
Alexander acknowledged the community's assistance with the investigation to date and encouraged anyone else with information to make contact.
People with information could call 105 and quote the file number 201021/0933 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.