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The Star: September 06, 2018

8 Thursday

8 Thursday September 6 2018 Latest Christchurch news at www.star.kiwi The Star News Boxing Day survivor remembers Alex Brown was 14 when he survived a horrific crash on Boxing Day 2016. Three other teenagers in the car died. Now aged 16 Alex talks for the first time to reporter Emily O’Connell about the ordeal and why he survived IT WAS after midnight on Boxing Day and 14-year-old Alex Brown’s world was literally upside down. He had been knocked out when the car he was in smashed into trees at 111km/h. Now conscious, and 20min after the 1.30am crash, he was in the middle of a nightmare. It was dark but he could still make out some of carnage in the upturned Nissan Tida. He put two fingers on his best mate Cole Christensen-Hull’s neck. There was no pulse. “I shut his eyes and gave him one last hug before I got out of the car and that was the last memory I have of him,” Alex, now 16, he recalled last week. Also in the car were three other teenagers, Sam Drost and Lily Moore, both 15, who would lose their lives on that terrible night, and the unlicensed 14-year-old driver, who had survived. Alex had only met Sam and Lily that night. Alex tried to get Lily out of the car, but was unsuccessful. Alex had suffered two broken hands and a fractured wrist. He couldn’t see Sam. He kicked part of the windscreen out, and got the seriously injured driver (who has not been named publicly because of his age) halfway out of the car before trying to find help. After walking for about a minute, he spotted a vehicle driving past and waved it down. “To be honest, I didn’t know what was going on really. All the adrenaline and everything all just happened really fast and I just told the lady [who he waved down], ‘we’ve crashed, they’re not breathing, please get help’,’’ Alex said. The teenagers had been out cruising and had ran into trouble at a camping ground at Lake AT HOME: Leeston crash survivor Alex Brown, 16, with Bruno (left) and Ruby. MEMORIES: The last photo of Alex and Cole Christensen-Hull which was taken on the day before the crash. (Right) – Service sheets for the three victims. Ellesmere. Alex and Cole had spent some of Christmas Day together, hanging around, playing basketball and riding bikes. They were picked up at Southbridge School at about 12.30am and headed out to the lake.

The Star Latest Christchurch news at www.star.kiwi Thursday September 6 2018 9 horror car crash ordeal Two “older men” camping at the site had confronted them because of their driving behaviour. Alex said Sam was punched and pushed into the lake. He and Cole had run away when the altercation happened and were picked up later by the other three. A gut feeling told Alex to put his safety belt on. He was in the back seat. He normally did buckle up but on the way out to the lake he hadn’t worn it. No one else in the car was wearing seat belts. Theresa Brown As they drove at speed south along Harts Rd, they discussed the mark on Sam’s head, caused Alex said, by being hit by one of the two men at the lake, and his wet clothes. Cole then told the others in the car they were being chased. There were headlights behind them. They feared it was because of the altercation at the camping ground. The driver sped up. Police would later say there was no evidence to support the theory they were being chased. “They’re chasing us, they’re chasing us,” Alex recalls Cole saying. Then disaster. The car failed to take a corner just before the junction with Southbridge- Sedgemere Rd, it hit a grass mound and became airborne for about 14m before hitting a row of trees. Alex, knocked out, doesn’t recall the impact. When he came to, his world had changed. The families of the teenagers were also about to get the worst possible news. The police knocked on the door of Alex’s home at 4.30am. Recalls his mother Theresa Brown: “Your world comes crashing down . . . your heart just goes into your boots,” she said. DEVASTATING: From left – Sam Drost, Cole Christensen-Hull and Lily Moore, all 15, died in the Boxing Day 2016 crash near Leeston. RESPECT: Friends of the victims mourn at the crash site. She was hoping police had got it wrong. Alex was supposed to have been staying at Cole’s house for the night. “We drove to the hospital and it wasn’t wrong. It was right,” she said. The months following the crash were terrible, said Alex. Attending his best friend Cole’s funeral was hardest. “It was pretty tough when they were showing the photos, they showed a photo that I took of him on Christmas, so the last photo that was taken of him, yeah it was pretty tough,” he said. The three service sheets from the funerals sit on a shelf in Alex’s room. He looks at them each day as he wakes up and before he goes to sleep. “They’re always there with me, even though I didn’t know Sam and Lily they’re part of my life now, I feel like I know them,” he said. Alex, who has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, says after the crash he stayed at home a lot with close family and friends. To help process what he had experienced, Alex tried counselling. “I wasn’t the biggest fan of that so I stopped but the majority of it is mum really, kept to myself and talked to mum,” he said. Going to the gym also helped. “I’ve always been like a sporty kid but I started the gym mainly to keep in better shape and keep myself doing something, keep myself occupied,” he said. He says Christmas is a difficult time. “It’s supposed to be a happy time, but it’s not, it’s still happy but it’s not the best feeling anymore,” Alex said. Now he’s 16, Alex has got his learner licence. Learning to drive has been a “nerve-wracking” process for him and something he’s taking his time doing. Looking back, Alex says he realises what a mistake they made by driving that night. “I realise I made the right choice [wearing a seat belt] but sometimes you feel a little bit guilty that I was one of the two out of the five who survived but then just grateful to be honest,” he said. Looking forward to the future, Alex is wanting to finish high school, get a job and maybe study at university. For now though, Alex is advising other teenagers to be careful when it comes to driving. “Be safe, always make sure the person driving has their full licence or if they’re on their learners, there’s someone with their full licence in the car,” he said. Quarry petition will be submitted next week • By Anan Zaki TEMPLETON residents will next week submit a petition demanding a proposed Fulton Hogan quarry be stopped. The petition has 4050 signatures and was launched online by the Templeton Residents’ Association six months ago. The proposed quarry is at a 170ha site on Curraghs, Dawsons, Jones and Maddisons Rds. Chairman Garry Kilday said the petition will be presented to Environment Canterbury, Ministry for the Environment and Selwyn District Council. He could not confirm what day next week the petition will be presented. Mr Kilday said the support from the community has been “massive.” “It’s been good for public unity because people have stood up in a solid form.” The petition had signatures from Australia and the United States. “It’s amazing actually, the amount of people who have signed this petition, quite incredible when you read it,” Mr Kilday said. Meanwhile, the campaign has secured $25,000 in donations to help fund an anticipated legal fight. Mr Kilday said he is grateful for the donations, but believed the residents will never have enough money to match Fulton Hogan’s “deep pockets.” He believed the residents will need at least $500,000 should they have to go to the Environment Court. “Like everything else in the country, it’s all about [who has the most] money, not the fairness,” Mr Kilday said. NOW EXTENDED! 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