One community, two triple fatal car crashes
It is the club in which no-one gets to choose their membership.
That club – parents of teenage car crash victims – gained more unwilling participants on Boxing Day when a triple-fatal crash claimed three lives in rural Canterbury.
Cole Hull, Sam Drost and Lily Moore, all aged 15, were killed when the driver of the car they were in, failed to take a corner and crashed into a row of trees along Harts Rd in the Selwyn district, near Christchurch.
The families' feelings are well known to Odette Cockerell who lost her daughter, Chloe, in a triple-fatal crash in the Selwyn district nine years ago.
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"I just was just horrified. Three again," she said.
"I just felt very very sad for the families and for the parents – the children are gone but the parents are the ones that are left behind to cope with the huge loss."
It was the "club you don't want to belong to", Cockerell said.
On September 8, 2007, her daughter was killed in a crash that also claimed the lives of her two friends, Melissa Norton and Emma Reynolds. The girls were all 15 at the time.
In the Boxing Day crash, the unlicensed driver, aged 14, was seriously hurt in the crash but survived.
"It's so sad. Kids just don't think about the impact that a bad decision could have on their families and the community," Cockerell said.
"They just go with that instant satisfaction, idea or decision."
At an inquest into the deaths of the Lincoln High School girls in 2008, speed, alcohol, drugs, mechanical defects, adverse weather and mobile phone use were all ruled out as contributing factors in the accident. Judge Neil Maclean said there was "no evidence to apportion blame to any person with respect to this accident".
Melissa, Chloe and one other friend had hopped into Emma's 1993 Daihatsu Mira at the Lincoln township, after celebrating a birthday in Christchurch.
The teens decided against waiting for a parent to pick them up and started the short 3km trip to a friend's home in Springston.
"I guess they thought it was just a straight road they had to go down and no-one else was involved. We have no idea still why it happened," Odette Cockerell said.
Evidence from the surviving passenger suggested Emma, who was on her restricted licence, drifted over the centre line and swerved to the left, moments before she lost control of the car on Ellesmere Junction Rd and hit a power pole.
When Chloe first got her licence, her family gave her a stern message that "this is the most dangerous tool and machine that you're ever going to have".
A week before the crash, and ahead of Chloe's 16th birthday on September 22, Cockerell had been to the transport office to get Chloe's restricted licence card made.
"She insisted that she wanted to be a donor. And that is how I knew that she was an organ donor and she would be thrilled to believe that she helped save people's lives."
That decision ended up saving three lives. One in Australia and two in New Zealand.
Cockerell said the grief was hard to shake. At times it was lonely and isolating.
"It's good to talk about the lost person.
"It's nice to keep alive all of the memories that you had with them, you've got to keep talking about it"
She and Emma's mum, Susan Reynolds, and Melissa's mum, Andrea Norton, had found solace in regular coffee or lunch catch-ups with each other.
Birthdays were the hardest, as was the date of the accident, and Christmas and the New Year, when family came together.
Cockerell wonders what her hilarious, outgoing, compassionate, animal-loving daughter would be doing now.
"She had great aspirations."
TIGHTER REGULATIONS NEEDED
Odette Cockerell believed increasing the driving age would help reduce young people's access to cars and the "invincible" mindset.
"They see adults driving and they all think driving is easy because so many people do it, but it's the most dangerous machine we ever get hold of and it is so accessible to everyone."
She suggested road safety and practical driver training be included in the school curriculum to instil messages "that it's not OK to get in a car when some one is driving in a car without the proper licence".