Sister accepts award for youth killed in orchard

CALEB HARRIS AND TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2013

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A teenager killed in an orchard accident was farewelled with an emotional haka at a school prizegiving where he was to receive an award.

Less than a day after Ira Gannaway-Gardner died, his older sister Ruby received the award for achievement in commerce and humanities on his behalf at yesterday's end-of-year ceremony at Napier Boys' High School.

Headmaster Ross Brown said the year 13 class performed a powerful rendition of the school haka in an "outpouring of support for the family, because they found the strength to be there".

Ira, 17, was killed after falling from a homemade four-wheel-drive vehicle at a Hastings orchard on Tuesday.

Mr Brown said he understood Ira was working in the orchard to save money for his university studies next year.

"Ira was a hard-working, diligent student, self-contained and well liked by his peers.

"A really nice young man who was looking forward to taking the next step in his studies."

Ruby Gannaway said in a Facebook post: "Words can't even describe what it feels like to lose a brother.

"I love you so much Ira Gannaway, you are the best little brother in the world and we are hurting so much. I just hope you can see how loved you are."

The school's year 13 dean, Anne Millward-Brown, said she had known Ira since year nine and described him as "quiet, always smiling, always very engaging, popular".

He was involved with drama and had been part of the backstage crew for a recent school production. He also liked basketball, creative writing and music, and planned to study commerce and law at university.

A high achiever, he had 50 level three excellence credits even before sitting external exams, Ms Millward-Brown said.

She recently singled him out at a year 13 meeting for getting through all five years at the school without a single blemish on his pastoral record. "Just a lovely, lovely boy."

She said students gathered before the assembly to support each other and the school would make sure counselling was available.

The accident at the property at Twyford, near Hastings, happened about 11.30am. It is understood Ira was alone on the vehicle, which appeared to go through a row of trees.

He was knocked from the vehicle, which continued a short distance before stopping.

"All I know is apparently he hit a tree," Mr Brown said.

Senior Constable Chris Pye said police were investigating the accident and would report their findings to the coroner.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is also investigating.

The orchard's owners and Ira's family declined to comment.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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