Community rocked by road deaths

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 08/06/2014
Abi and Ella
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TRAGIC LOSS: Abigail "Abi" Ann Hone (left) and Ella Yasmin Summerfield, both aged 12, died in a crash in Rakaia.

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Sumner schoolgirls Abi Hone and Ella Summerfield were excited about a trip to Ohau.

Ella's parents, Shane Summerfield and Sally Rumble, had decided to make the most of the holiday weekend by heading to the scenic Waitaki village.

With her older brother, Sam, staying home to study for exams, Ella, 12, invited her best friend Abi, 12, to come along. The girls attended Sumner School together before Ella moved at St Margaret's College and Abi started at Rangi Ruru Girls' School this year.

They were part of a close group of girlfriends who often had sleepovers at each others' homes.

The family got into their Volvo and collected Abi from her home on Scarborough Hill.

Shane Summerfield, 48, a respected Sumner dentist, drove. He stuck to the speed limit. At Rakaia he turned into Thompsons Track, a route frequently used by southbound motorists to bypass Ashburton. Five minutes later he was the only person in the car alive.

Dutch tourist Johannes Jacobus Appelman, 52, was driving a rented Subaru station wagon northeast on Somerton Rd.

Appelman had stayed at the Copthorne Hotel Commodore, near Christchurch Airport, the previous night. He checked into the hotel some time after 1am and checked out at about 9.30am. He collected a rental car before travelling south.

Police allege Appelman drove through the stop sign at the Somerton Rd intersection with Thompsons Track about 4pm last Saturday. His vehicle smashed into the left side of the Summerfields' vehicle, instantly killing Sally, 49, Ella and Abi.

Two road policing officers on patrol were parked on the side of Somerton Rd.

Shane Summerfield was flown by Westpac rescue helicopter to Christchurch Hospital with serious head, chest and abdominal injuries. He required multiple surgeries. He woke from an induced coma on Monday to be informed of the three deaths.

His son, Sam, has been constantly at his side. Shane Sommerville remains in a serious condition in hospital, but is expected to recover.

Appelman was treated for minor injuries at Ashburton Hospital. The next day, police charged him with three counts of careless driving causing death and three of careless driving causing injury.

On Tuesday, with his arm in a sling, he appeared in the Christchurch District Court, where he surrendered his passport. His bail conditions forbid him from driving or applying for travel documents.

Police were quick to condemn the driver. But Abi's parents, Trevor and Lucy Hone, and their sons have nothing but sympathy.

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They were quick to convey publicly that they held no grudge.

"This could have happened to anybody. He will have to spend the rest of his life living with this on his conscience," their family-appointed spokesman, Darren Wright, said.

Their eldest son, Ed Hone, posted a message on Facebook urging people to spare their blame and anger.

"The man will be feeling every bit as hurt as we all are," he said.

His sister was "beautiful, little, perfect, silly, funny", and her death had left the family with the "most unspeakable sadness".

"It is easy to think that maybe if I'd said that last word to Abi before she left in the car that morning, that car would have missed them," he said.

The Sumner community has rallied around both families, who are well-known and respected in the seaside community. Locals gathered at Cave Rock on the morning after the crash to support each other as word of the deaths spread. A food roster has been organised to provide for both families.

Sumner School brought in a specialist trauma team to help students and teachers cope.

Darren Wright, the Hone family spokesman, is deputy chairman of the board of trustees at Sumner School, where Abi and Ella were former pupils, and chairman of the Sumner Community Residents' Association.

He was deeply moved by the support flowing in to the community.

"Somebody said to me, ‘tragedies like this open up all these boxes that we have tried to close'. It is an incredibly difficult time. Two beautiful girls and a beautiful woman were taken away tragically and instantly."

A large oak tree in the central playground was this week designated for pupils and parents to place messages and flowers to remember Abi and Ella. Wright said these would be moved to the hall for Abi's funeral.

St Margaret's College made a tribute book and set up a memorial space in its chapel for reflection or prayer after the deaths. Friends of both families said the Sumner community was "devastated" by the fatalities.

When Shane Summerfield got out of hospital, people were ready and waiting to offer him support. Rumble, known to have an eye for beauty in nature, co-owned the Lyttelton-based Carousel Flora Design.

The business ran floristry workshops and Rumble ran a sub-blog on the website about food and nutrition.

Rumble, who was dedicated to fitness, was often seen running with her son, Sam, around the coastal village.

She and Ella shared a close bond, too.

The Summerfield family issued a brief statement yesterday thanking the community for its support.

A funeral for Abi Hone would be held in the Sumner School Hall on tomorrow.

- Sunday Star Times

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