Crash victim unaware of husband's death

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 13:31 22/10/2012
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax Media

The family of American car crash victim Kirsten Steinke, who was on her honeymoon when her new husband was killed in the accident, will be well enough to travel home next week. Her father has said thank you for the support they received while in NZ.

Kirsten Steinke
SIDE STRENGTH: Gerri Steinke sits with her daughter Kirsten - the victim of a fatal car crash in the Waikato.
Jim Steinke
CHRIS HILLOCK/ Fairfax NZ
PROGRESS POSITIVE: Jim Steinke spoke with media today saying his daughter, Kirsten, was recovering quickly.

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A newly-wed, critically injured in a car crash that killed her husband, does not yet know that he is dead.

While Kirsten Steinke's condition is improving and her parents hope to take her home to the United States in the next week, the honeymooner is unaware that her husband won't be there to welcome her.

Kirsten and Kallan Stithem were celebrating their marriage in New Zealand when their car collided with another vehicle near Waitomo Caves on September 22, killing Stithem and critically injuring his new wife. The couple had wed just four days earlier.

Jim and Gerri Steinke travelled from the United States to New Zealand to be by their daughter's bedside, while Gary and Jean Stithem have since returned home with their son's body.

"She's not cognisant of everything that's occurred. She's aware she's been in an accident. She's aware she's recovering," Jim Steinke said today.

Steinke said his daughter was making leaps and bounds in her recovery, and was constantly defying doctors' odds with her progress.

‘‘Kirsten is recovering so well. She gets better every day. She is doing terrifically.’’ he said.

The Steinkes met this week with the driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash.

‘‘We just kind of comforted each other in a terrible situation,’’ Steinke said.

They say they wanted to meet him to "provide him with some comfort to regain pieces of his life that are forever scarred".

Steinke also wished to give thanks to the overwhelming amount of Kiwis who had reached out and offered him and his wife accomodation, cars, food and getaways.

‘‘For people to do this for total strangers, I’ve never experienced it in my life,’’ he said.

The couple also thanked staff at Waikato Hospital for contributing to their daughter's "miraculous recovery".

Steinke moved out of intensive care earlier this month and last week moved from Waikato Hospital's high dependency unit to a ward.

Steinke described the support and kindness he and his wife had received as "exemplary".

He described Jenny Dorrian from the hospital's trauma team as "an angel sent from God" and thanked the medivac and emergency department teams that cared for their daughter "and undoubtedly saved her life".  

"We don’t know any of their names, but they also deserve a thank you from grateful parents."

Kirsten had been given a Maori pendant for "her safe journey over water", which was "very sweet and touching," Steinke said.

"Gerri and I have also been given Maori pendants from the police here in Hamilton for our safe travel and we thank them."

The Steinke family were planning to return home, where Kirsten would be admitted to a rehabilitation facility later this week.

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