As Jack Heritage Snr takes down the Christmas lights, there is huge sadness that his only son will not be there to celebrate with them next year.
His son – named Jack just like dad – died after a crash on the Triangle Rd bridge in West Auckland on Boxing Day.
Heritage read of an accident in the news and looked out the window to check their cars were still parked outside.
But later that morning, two police officers arrived at his door and in that moment he knew.
“They asked me to go inside. I had a strange feeling,” Heritage said.
The officers urged him to sit down and told him what they could.
“My son Jack had passed away,” he said. “He was lying in a mortuary.”
It was a shocking blow that left the 20-year-old’s parents reeling. Next year was supposed to their son’s year.
“That’s what I felt,” Heritage said.
Jack was set to embark on a new chapter in the military in 2021.
He had completed his final year of secondary school at Kelston Boys’ High School in 2018, having previously attended Wesley College.
The family had moved to New Zealand from Fiji when Jack was about 7.
While the tight-knit family mourn, Heritage has been moved by the sheer number of people showing up their home to personally pay tribute to Jack’s memory.
His “kind-hearted” son made friends with ease.
Even as Heritage spoke to the Herald another friend had arrived to pay his respects.
“It has consoled us,” he said of the overwhelming level of support.
There were many young people among those grieving.
“I have been telling them; ‘I wouldn’t want your parents to go through what we are going through now’,” Heritage said. “It is so painful.”
So many sad faces, tears wiped away from their eyes as they looked down to the floor, he said.
“So please… Learn from what has happened. Just be careful. Think of your parents. Think of your life.”
He wants to make something good from a heart-aching tragedy.
“God give me the strength to use the opportunity to encourage somebody or help somebody learn from this,” Heritage said.
The crash also claimed the life of Viliami Muru-Teutau, also 20, and hospitalised two others.
In a statement released yesterday, Muru-Teutau’s family said they were devastated at the loss of a vibrant, beloved son and young father.
Family described him as a naturally gifted sportsman who loved rugby.
He was a former NZ Māori under-18 player, who played for a New South Wales country team last year, before coming home to play in the Waitematā Rugby Club’s premier team.
As a roofing apprentice, he was working hard towards completing his trade training to provide for his young family.
“Our world has been turned upside down and inside out. This is supposedto be a holiday season of festive happiness, and instead we are weeping and we are grieving.”
Five motorists have died so far on New Zealand roads during the official Christmas/New Year’s holiday period.
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