Saturday will mark two months since four-year-old Jackson White was struck and killed by a forklift operated by his father, Ian. His parents Ian and Meredith White talk to reporter Sophie Cornish.

Nobody was ever a stranger for too long around Jackson White.

The bubbly, curly-haired boy would chat to random people on the street and offer hugs to the women working at the supermarket.

He was a familiar face at his parents' Prebbleton-based business, Lincoln Grain and Produce, next door to their home.

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Their customers knew him well, and little Jackson was in his element.

Like many little boys, he was fascinated by trucks, diggers, tractors and any type of construction.

On Monday, September 30, the morning started like any normal day for the White family.

Jackson White's parents just clung to each other after the accident. Photo / supplied
Jackson White's parents just clung to each other after the accident. Photo / supplied

It was school holidays and Jackson's playcentre was closed.

Jackson was shadowing his dad Ian as he worked at the business.

Just before 2pm, their world changed forever.

Jackson was struck by a forklift, operated by Ian. His injuries were critical. There was a desperate attempt at medical attention, but he died at the scene.

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Ian and Meredith can't bring themselves to talk about how Jackson was struck. Their eyes well up with emotion as they talk in their living room, holding onto their second child, Fletcher, who is 19-months-old.

It was Ian who phoned 111. Meredith was asleep at home next door after working night shift as a nurse at Christchurch Hospital.

The first responders were volunteer firefighters from Lincoln about 3km away. Ian knew the crew very well – he has been a Lincoln volunteer firefighter for more than 25 years.

Meredith was woken by the phone call no parent ever wants to receive.

"It was the ambulance control room, saying there had been an accident at the shed and that my husband needed me. I got dressed and ran there, I never imagined it was Jackson. I was still disorientated about what time of the day it was."

By the time Meredith arrived, police, Fire and Emergency NZ and ambulance staff were already there.

"I was calm because I knew these guys. They were doing what they needed to do. As a nurse I wanted to be in there but I stood back and gave them space.

"Ian and I held each other. I can't really remember what happened next," she said.

They then were faced with how to tell their family.

A Lincoln firefighter contacted Ian's parents.

But they couldn't get to everyone before the news of the death began appearing in the media.

Meredith, Ian and Fletcher White, with a framed photograph of Jackson. Photo / Geoff Sloan
Meredith, Ian and Fletcher White, with a framed photograph of Jackson. Photo / Geoff Sloan

"Unfortunately, the media had picked it up and got it out there before we had a chance to contact everyone. We had told the immediate family but there was some distant family that we hadn't had a chance to tell. It was a bit hard," they said.

Ian and Meredith are still trying to come to terms with life without Jackson.

Ian spoke of the 'what-ifs' that trouble him the most.

"The hardest bit is what we have lost and what we are going to miss out on. Watching him grow up together. The what-ifs. Starting school, birthdays, Christmas," he said.

Fletcher, Jackson's little brother, does not realise what has happened.

Said Meredith: "He sits in his high chair and looks for Jackson down the corridor. Just this week we have got some photos of the two boys printed and he just sits there and looks at him. He doesn't realise what's happened, but we certainly are going to keep Jackson's memory alive and talk about him.

"He was very protective of him. If Fletcher woke up crying from a sleep, Jackson would be at his door, waiting to go in. He didn't quite like sharing all his toys with him, but if he was upset, he would give him something. They would get up in the morning, throw all the cushions off the couch and wrestle, nicely of course. There was lots of playing.

"Every now and again there is something that will set you off. He use to take his Matchbox cars everywhere, so we are still finding them in odd places." Jackson's personality was "larger than life."

While his delayed speech meant he only knew how to say about 10 words going into this year, he always knew how to articulate what he wanted, Ian said.

He was able to understand words and follow instructions but struggled to form words and create sentences.

"Pretty much ever since he went to Melodies (his pre-school), his speech just took off and he was able to form three-word sentences. We had a speech-language therapist that came out. We did horse riding as well to help that, there is research that shows animals improve language.

Dad Ian White, mum, Meredith White, Jackson White on the left and baby Fletcher. Photo / supplied
Dad Ian White, mum, Meredith White, Jackson White on the left and baby Fletcher. Photo / supplied

"He loved horses, he loved dogs and he loved our cats. He would chase around after them and he was just content to sit with them," Meredith said.

His blonde curls stood out so much, people would follow them in the supermarket and ask about his hair.

"There was never a stranger with him for too long. He would chat to random people on the street. He would have hugs for all the ladies down at the supermarket. He would sit on anybody's knee.

"If someone was upset, he would try and comfort and help them. There was a wee girl who had lost one of her toys at playcentre and he went and found it for her," Meredith said.

At Tai Tapu Playcentre, Jackson spent his days discovering bugs, playing with blocks and building towers, drowning the sandpit in water, then digging rivers and channels.

"He had learnt skills there that we didn't even realise he had, like putting on his shoes."

Jackson loved animals, bouncing on the trampoline and baking with his mum.

"He loved baking in the kitchen, especially the measuring and scooping. It took him about a year to discover to lick the beaters," she said.

Aside from baking, Jackson also loved eating, especially bread.

Ian described reaching for a loaf of bread only to find little fingers had pulled out the middle of the pieces.

Jackson White's parents say the hardest days will be the birthdays, and celebrations such as Christmas. Photo / supplied
Jackson White's parents say the hardest days will be the birthdays, and celebrations such as Christmas. Photo / supplied

The couple described their relationship, which had become much closer since tragedy struck their family.

"When one of us is feeling down, the other one takes over. We talk, communicate and tag team. It has obviously brought us a lot closer together.

"The support of the community, Fire and Emergency, the customers and playcentre has just been unbelievable. We are so grateful. Even now, every day there is someone who will text or phone or ring to say how are you going? Thinking of you guys, is there anything we can do?

Jackson's funeral was filled with things he loved, including music, bubbles and balloons.

More than $26,000 was raised for his family by 351 people through a Givealittle page following his death.

The family is receiving counselling support through Fire and Emergency NZ.

The death is being investigated by WorkSafe. - starnews.co.nz