Rangimarie Nepe and her partner Charlie Russell were killed in the crash on Sunday morning in Hamilton. Photo / Supplied
The pair killed in a crash after the car they were travelling in smashed into a truck and burst into flames were a young couple.
The fiery crash on Ulster St in Hamilton on Sunday morning claimed the lives of Kerihaehae (known as Rangimarie) Nepe and her partner Charlie Russell, both 19, of Hamilton, and injured six others.
Nepe’s dad, Melvin Te Wake, has made a heartfelt tribute to his “firstborn” on Facebook.
“My big girl, my number one, my honeygirl. I don’t even know what to say or how to feel. This is not fair. I f***en love you. I’m gonna miss you baby. I already do. Rest in love my honeygirl,” he wrote.
Hours before the crash, Te Wake made a plea on social media, asking if anyone knew where his daughter was.
Police issued a statement tonight confirming the couple’s identities and extending condolences to both of the teenagers’ families.
“An investigation into the crash remains ongoing.”
Russell’s sister Natalia Sinclair wrote that losing her brother has been the hardest thing.
“Losing a little brother has to be the most numbing s**t,” Sinclair wrote.
“This has got to be the hardest thing ever man… I’m so broken… love yous so much my baby brother.”
Sinclair also posted a photo of the couple, asking them to “look after each other up there”.
Tributes from other family members and friends of the couple are also on social media.
One person wrote: “Kia ora whānau, unfortunately our niece and her boyfriend were the two fatalities at the scene on the weekend.”
Another wrote: “Morning my beautiful cousin. Still trying [to] wrap my head around all this. [I] was up all night with you on my mind. It just don’t feel real my cous and I don’t know what to say or feel. I love you my beautiful cousin.”
Emergency services responded to the crash outside Pak’nSave Mill St about 3.45am on Sunday.
Nepe and Russell were killed at the scene and six others were transported to Waikato Hospital – two were moderately injured, two had minor injuries and two remain in intensive care fighting for their lives.
The two people critically injured were pulled from the burning car by three police officers. The officers, who are being praised for their heroic and quick actions, suffered smoke inhalation.
Ben Harper was on his way home when he came across the crash moments after it happened.
“The car was flying down the road well above the speed limit and crashed into the side of the truck, almost directly into the diesel tank, causing it to catch fire,” he said.
“When I got there the car was on fire and quite a few people around the car [were] trying to extinguish the flames and save whoever was alive.”
He said one person was trapped in the car.
Police confirmed they were not following or pursuing the vehicle before the crash. A unit was already on patrol in the vicinity at the time and was able to respond instantly.