Friends mourn family killed in Waikato crash
A paddling pool and a remote control car remain wrapped in a Whakamaru home - but they will never be opened by the children for which they were intended.
They were presents purchased by Richard Melling and his partner Lisa Crowley whose bodies were discovered with their two children and Melling's eldest son Jordan, 11, on Monday just kilometres from their Whakamaru home.
Police are still working through the crash investigation but it is thought the family crashed some time between Sunday and 1pm on Tuesday on a sweeping bend flanked by pine and poplar trees.
Yesterday the couple's best friends, neighbours Anna and Wayne Arthur, described how their "world had been torn apart" by the tragic news.
"I still can't believe it," Arthur said. "I'm expecting them to come through that door and tell me everything is ok," she cried.
Both couples shared a barbecue on Saturday night, and were planning a special anniversary dinner for Monday.
"That was December 17, we moved here one year ago from Auckland and our two families have been inseparable since," Arthur, 30, said.
"To be honest we kind of saved each other, they have been good for us and we were good for them, we considered ourselves family. "
Melling, 37, and Crowley, 23, had a baby boy three weeks ago - the couple's second child.
"They told us they were planning to call him Dylan and they were so dam happy," Arthur said.
Thoughts echoed by Melling's aunt and uncle, Donna and John Northcott, who yesterday visited the crash site to pay their respects and place flowers for the "colourful" nephew they "loved like a son".
"Richie was really trying to turn his life around and said he was doing everything he could to provide for Lisa and the kids," Northcott said.
However, Crowley's father had told TV3 he was concerned about her abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Melling had been working odd jobs mowing lawns to support his family, according to Arthur, who said both he and Lisa spent hours clearing a section in the neighbourhood last Friday to raise money for Christmas.
"They wanted to give those kids the best Christmas possible," she said. They hid all the presents in case Brody (aged 2) got into them and they had a tree and lights and everything - it's was going to be a special time for all of us and I can't bear the thought of doing this without them now."
Arthur sensed something was wrong when her friends did not return text messages on Sunday afternoon.
"My sister-in-law saw their car at the Four Square on Sunday morning," she said. I went over Sunday night and noticed the lights were on but they often did that when they knew they were coming home after dark."
On Monday Arthur's concern grew when she realised the family dog, Bubbles - a miniature fox terrier, had been left inside.
"I could hear her barking. Then (on Monday) Jordan's Mum arrived - they were meant to drop Jordan back to her on Sunday night, she was asking me if I had seen them - I can't imagine what she is going through right now."
Good friend Charlene Campbell said Crowley was a protective mother who put her children first.
Campbell knew the family well through her role as practise manager of Mangakino Health Services and on the local ratepayers' association.
"They were good people," she said. "Lisa was a beautiful mum and Richard always had the best intentions," she said.
The family had recently been involved in a community fun day where Melling had taken part in activities including sack races and egg throwing.
"It was so good to see him getting involved, and he even offered manual labour clearing a reserve at Sandy Bay to assist the community," she said.
Her son Blake, 11, went to school with Jordan when both boys attended Marotiri School. Blake said he had spent time with Jordan in school holidays riding bikes, making huts and fishing.
"We had lots of fun, he was cool," he said.
Northcott said both the Crowley and Melling families were expected to meet last night to discuss funeral options.
"Rich was a colourful character but he was always there when we needed him and we will miss them all." she said.