'Amazing woman' Ariana Brown killed in Thailand motorbike crash
A Kiwi woman who died in a motorcycle crash in Phuket was on her way home from celebrating her first fight in Muay Thai.
Ariana Brown, originally from Motueka, missed a bend in the road and crashed her motorcycle into a tree at 2.30am on Saturday (local time), Thai police said.
The 43-year-old mother of two was taken to hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.
Her death has shocked fellow Muay Thai fighters in Phuket who have remembered her as an inspiring and strong woman.
The head of Tiger Muay Thai training camp Jolen Sheldon said Brown was out with friends celebrating victory in her maiden fight - a total knock out in the fourth round.
He said she was "a much loved member of the Tiger family who was an inspiration to everyone who knew her".
She came to their training centre last year with no intention to fight but "fell in love with Muay Thai", Sheldon said.
"It made her want to see how she would do in a fight. After a lot of hard training at the age of 43 she got to achieve her dream this past Friday night.
"Tragically, Ariana passed away later that night.
"All of us at Tiger Muay Thai are deeply saddened by her passing and send our condolences to her family. She will be deeply missed."
Brown leaves behind two sons in their early twenties.
Her friend Ash Gibson was riding 30 or 40 seconds behind her and was the first friend on the scene after the crash.
Gibson said Brown had been training "very hard" for her first fight.
Brown and a group of friends, including Gibson, were returning from a night celebrating the win when the accident occurred.
"She had never fought before, she was so stoked," Gibson said.
Brown had suffered severe head injuries in the crash and although she was rushed to Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket, she was pronounced dead on arrival.
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed the death and said it was supporting Brown's family.
Gibson said the world had lost an "amazing woman" who "loved life".
"She's loved by so many here in Thailand, had a huge group of us cheering her on for her fight," she said.
"I think we were all just taken by her beauty outside and inside."
Brown had been training in Muay Thai at the Tiger Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts camp in Phuket.
Brown and Gibson met in Thailand a week before Christmas and connected instantly.
Gibson said Brown loved Thailand and had been planning to remain there for some time.
She had another Muay Thai fight scheduled in two weeks. In the meantime, the pair were planning a road trip on their scooters out to Phang Nga Bay.
"I'm heartbroken," Gibson said.
"She was a strong woman, it's still pretty hard to believe."