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Kaitāia driveway death: Family mourns baby girl Azalea-Reign Samuels

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Heartbroken mum Tuhiata Samuels and her 20-month-old baby girl Azalea-Reign, who died after she was hit by a vehicle in a driveway in Kaitāia.

The grieving whānau of a 20-month-old baby girl who died after being struck by a vehicle in a Kaitāia driveway have described her as a “ball of energy” who was loved dearly by everyone.

Last Thursday, Azalea-Reign Kiani May Samuels, lovingly nicknamed “Zay Zay”, was flown to Auckland’s Starship Hospital with critical injuries, only to take her last breath in her mother Tuhiata Samuels’ arms the next morning, said the toddler’s aunt and family spokeswoman Melina Samuels.

“Seeing my cousin hold the lifeless body of her child was the saddest moment I ever witnessed and brought tears to my eyes,” said a heartbroken Melina.

From her perspective, the little Samuels was the apple of her mother’s eye and the “glue” that kept the family together after her younger sister Cartier was stillborn in December.

“We are still unable to process the shock from the double tragedies that happened exactly one month apart … and feel lost for words to describe our unexpected losses.”

She recalled her cousin’s recollection of the incident, which started with Zay Zay playing in the house as her mother relaxed on the couch – keeping a close eye on her baby.

However, moments later, she was nowhere to be seen. Attempts to locate her eventually brought her whanau and the worried mum to the “horrible sight” of her baby after she’d been run over by a car.

“Tuhiata’s sister immediately did CPR and the whānau acted fast by driving Zay Zay to Katāia Hospital.”

Although the local nursing staff were able to stabilise her, the facility did not have the necessary equipment to carry out delicate operations.

After the child was flown to Starship Hospital, assessments revealed Tuhiata’s girl had little chance of surviving due to “the extent of her brain bleed”.

Melina Samuels says the baby girl was a beautiful ray of sunshine who had an incredible soul.
Melina Samuels says the baby girl was a beautiful ray of sunshine who had an incredible soul.

“That moment when I looked at my cousin, she looked so helpless and seemed like a person who had lost everything she held dear.

“She burst into tears and started wailing for her girl. It was so painful that when our whānau went to hug her, we could feel the deep sadness protrude from her,” Melina said.

Almost 20 months ago, the aunty recalls happily chatting and making “baby plans” with Tuhiata, since both the mothers had fallen pregnant at the same time.

In fact, Zay Zay’s mother was the first one she called after giving birth to her, and only a couple of hours later, Tuhiata herself felt her water break.

“Interestingly, my son and her late girl used to share the same personalities. Both were very energetic and lively kids who ensured they got what they wanted and when they needed [it],” Melina said.

Melina Samuels says Zay Zay's favourite places to visit were beaches and parks.
Melina Samuels says Zay Zay’s favourite places to visit were beaches and parks.

She recalled Zay Zay’s love for seafood and going to the beach and park at every opportunity.

“The little Samuels was the centre of attention and loved by all who spent some time with her.”

Melina thanks everyone who has shown their love and support, as well as those who have given koha for the funeral arrangement (this Tuesday) and the deceased girl’s family moving forward.

Those who want to help the family can donate at the Givealittle page set up by the whānau.

Avneesh Vincent is the crime and emergency services reporter at the Advocate. He was previously at the Gisborne Herald as the arts and environment reporter and is passionate about covering stories that can make a difference. He joined NZME in July 2023.

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