When dark clouds never lift
Hills and Harbour
There are shadows under Darren Wright's eyes and his phone rings off the hook.
It has been a long and "incredibly difficult" week.
Wright has been wearing three "hats" since a triple fatality at Rakaia devastated two close-knit Sumner families.
Abi Hone, 12, her best friend, Ella Summerfield, 12, and Ella's mother, Sally Rumble, 49, were killed in a crash on their way to Ohau last Saturday.
Sally's husband, Shane Summerfield, 48, was badly injured in the crash. He was told about Abi, Ella and Sally after coming out of a coma.
Wright, the Hone family's 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 said he was blown away by the support that had been flowing in "city-wide".
"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 local company donated a gazebo for Abi's funeral in the Sumner School hall on Monday and the Summerfield and Hone families were offered free car rentals for visiting family members.
Other companies offered the Hones free food for Monday's service and the Christchurch City Council donated two totara trees to the school.
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.
The school's parent-teacher association asked people to help out with baked goods for after the service and friends were baking and cooking meals for the families on a roster.
"Everybody responds to these sorts of events in different ways and mourns in different ways and for a lot of people just doing something and helping out makes them feel a heck of a lot better," Wright said.
Sumner School staff were in "a very vulnerable place", he said, and it was great to have the support of two Ministry of Education traumatic incident team members, who had been helping since Tuesday morning.
Head of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said: "The death of a friend is never easy to comprehend at any age [and] children, in particular, need targeted support to help them come to terms with this type of loss."
It was "best practice" for support after a traumatic event to be provided by parents, teachers and close personal networks, she said.
"Face-to-face counselling of children immediately after an event is not recommended but may be appropriate in the coming weeks," Casey said.
St Margaret's College and Rangi Ruru Girls' School, where Ella and Abi were in year 8, had their own support systems.
A Sumner resident, who did not want to be named, said even strangers had been providing the two well-known families "layer upon layer" of support.
"The whole village is feeling this. It's as though there's a dark cloud [overhead]. Everybody is just walking up to each other in the street and giving them big hugs."
Dutch tourist Johannes Jacobus Appelman, who allegedly drove through a stop sign into the car Abi, Ella, Sally and Shane were in, appeared in the District Court this week.
Both families have, in statements to The Press, expressed gratitude for the community support and requested privacy.
- The Press