Crash couple had just started new life in NZ

Jesse and Samie Shortland and their children, Heath and Skylar. Photo: Givealittle
Jesse and Samie Shortland and their children, Heath and Skylar. Photo: Givealittle
The young couple killed in a head-on crash in Southland had just moved to New Zealand to start a new life with their young family.

Jesse and Samie Shortland (both 28) were driving back from Jesse's father's funeral in Hokitika when they were involved in a crash with another car on the Dipton-Winton Highway, near Ladbrook Rd, about 9.30pm on Sunday.

The couple were killed, along with the female driver of the other car.  Police this morning named her as 22-year-old Marina Liebl, of Germany.

The couple's children - 2-year-old son Heath and 8-month-old daughter Skylar - survived the crash. Police said yesterday the children were still being treated at Southland Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and were being supported by family members.

Samie Shortland's aunt, Lucille Ronald, told the Herald yesterday her sister, Samie Shortland's mother, was struggling to come to terms with what happened.

''[Samie's mum] is in bits.''

The couple had followed Samie's parents to New Zealand from Australia around July to start a new life in Invercargill. Mr Shortland is a New Zealander.

''They absolutely loved it and reckoned they should have done it years ago.''

Jesse's aunt, former NZ First MP Ria Bond, said the family had gathered in Invercargill and were still coming to terms with everything.

''We're reeling in devastation. It's been a triple tragedy for our family.

''My nephew's father [died] last week ... we buried him on Saturday in Hokitika. That's why we were all there ... and unfortunately we've just lost our nephew and niece as well.''

Jesse had been in good spirits when she saw him last.

''He was happy. We spent the afternoon with all of his half-brothers and sisters - all nine of them.''

The family had been floored by the response from friends and New Zealanders. A Givealittle page (here) was being set up to help pay for funeral costs and start a trust fund for the two orphaned children.

''We've been overwhelmed with the messages of support we've received.''

The couple, who were deeply in love, would be buried together, she said.

A funeral would be held later in the week.

Police were working to establish the cause of the crash, and would advise when a planned closure of part of the highway would occur.

-By Belinda Feek

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