Tributes for 'beloved husband', promising teen killed in rally crash

Brooklyn Horan. Photo: Bruce Jenkins Photography via RNZ
Brooklyn Horan. Photo: Bruce Jenkins Photography via RNZ
The motorsport community is in mourning after a double fatality during a rally in Northland on Sunday which took the life of a promising young driver.

The driver and co-driver died in the single-car crash at about 2pm during the Arcadia Road Rallysprint in Paparoa, held by Hibiscus Coast Motorsport Club.

The fatalities occurred when the car left the road and became submerged in a swollen river, according to a police serious crash investigator. Because the crash occurred while the road was closed, the events will be investigated by WorkSafe and MotorSport NZ.

Tributes reveal the driver was 15-year-old Brooklyn Horan, who was showing promise behind the wheel despite his young age, and co-driver Tyson Jemmett.

A social media post by Hodgson Motorsport shared a photo of Horan competing and winning in Kiwitrucks competitions as far back as 2017 when he would’ve been under 10.

“It is with a very heavy heart that today we heard the absolutely devastating news that Brooklyn passed away doing the very thing we grew to love together as families,” the tribute reads.

The post then remembers Horan’s “cheeky smile” and offers condolences to his family and friends.

“Brooklyn, you were an amazing, kind, loving, happy kid and that hadn’t changed years later when we crossed paths again.”

Another tribute by Racer Products also said Horan was a “great kid to deal with”.

“His future was bright and he will be missed.”

Offroad Racing NZ said Horan was “super-fast in any machine, on any surface”.

Horan - the son of well-known competitor Raana Horan - had already achieved coming second in the SBT Group Taranaki Tarmac Rally in 2023.

Despite being 14 at the time, Horan was allowed to compete on closed roads and his co-driver at the time, Michael Connor, drove on the open road sections.

Jemmett keen motorsport enthusiast and beloved husband

Meanwhile Jemmett, 35, has been remembered as a keen motorsport enthusiast and beloved husband.

He worked at media organisation Stuff, alongside his wife Lucy, the website confirmed on Monday afternoon.

Jemmett’s family released a statement confirming the death of a “beloved husband”, and loved son of Ian and Pat, brother of Kahlia and loved son-in-law of Caroline and Glenn, Stuff reported.

“He was a keen motorsport enthusiast and a popular member of the commercial team at Stuff where, as a commercial director, he last year won the national IAB award for Audio Sales Excellence.”

Stuff chief executive Laura Maxwell told staff on Monday that Jemmett had died in the crash, saying his loss was devastating.

“No words can convey the tragedy of losing someone like Tyson in a situation like this, at such an early age, and to express the love we all feel for his family at this time.”

Car submerged in river

Police serious crash unit investigator Jeff Cramp surveyed the scene of the crash on Sunday, with his report being sent to WorkSafe and MotorSport NZ.

The crash occurred when the car came off an unsealed road and into a river swollen by rain, with safety equipment in the car possibly making it harder for the pair to get out, he said.

“Rally cars have whoopsies all the time when competing, just the difference in this one is the fact the car went into a swollen stream and was submerged.

“Tragically, they couldn’t get out of the vehicle. That’s the fundamental difference: the fact that it went into a swollen river and submerged.”

MotorSport NZ president Wayne Christie said the organisation will undertake a full and thorough investigation into the incident, working with event organisers and volunteer officials, as well as co-operating with police and WorkSafe.

Fatal incidents are rare in motorsport, with New Zealand’s safety regulations continuously improving over its 75-year history, Christie said.

“Modern motorsport safety standards are incredibly high and are subject to millions of dollars of investment annually around the world.

“All rallysprint events are required to have a bespoke safety plan as a condition of their event permit ... MotorSport New Zealand is committed to ensuring the best safety standards are always enforced and in place at all events.”

Christie said while it is too early to comment on what the main contributing factors to the crash were, it did not seem the road was in a detrimental or unsafe condition.

While the identities of the driver and co-driver have not yet been released, police confirmed the driver was 15 and the co-driver was 35.

MotorSport NZ has heightened requirements for youngsters aged 12 to 15 to gain a junior competition licence, as well as restrictions placed on the types of events and vehicles they are allowed to compete in, Christie explained.

“Junior drivers are commonplace in motorsport in both New Zealand and globally, with drivers such as Hayden Paddon, Liam Lawson, Scott Dixon and many others all competing prior to their 16th birthdays and before they held a civil driver’s licence,” he said.

“Our thoughts and condolences again go out to the families and loved ones of the two competitors who so tragically passed away. We have begun extending formal support offers to those immediately involved in the incident and will continue to support the wider motorsport community during this tough time.”

By Denise Piper