When Geoff Eades fell asleep at the wheel and crashed, three family members died. A poignant funeral yesterday served as a warning to others, writes Greer McDonald.
PROPPED up in his wheelchair at the front of the Wesley Methodist Church and with his leg in a cast extended out in front of him, Geoff Eades stared at the two brightly decorated coffins lying on ornate tapa cloth and woven mats. In one was his Fijian-born wife of 36 years, Sera Eades. In the other smaller, baby pink coffin was his three-year old granddaughter Iva Harper. Hundreds of friends and family filled the central Wellington church yesterday to mourn the triple fatality which happened two weeks ago today.
New Zealand-born Mr Eades, who had flown to Christchurch from Britain three days earlier, fell asleep at the wheel of a borrowed car due to sleep loss, jetlag and stress.
The car hit a power pole. Although it was travelling only about 40kmh, had functioning airbags, and all passengers were wearing seatbelts, the impact killed Mr Eades’wife, 60, their granddaughter and his cousin, Valerie Bryan, 68, Mr Eades broke his ankle, cracked his ribs and suffered a partly collapsed lung in the crash. Iva’s parents, Linieta Eades and Jeff Harper, both Kiwis living in London, spoke to mourners at the funeral. “Iva will always be my little pumpkin.” Mr Harper said. “I know she’s off on her own little adventure.”
The pair thanked emergency services and bystanders who assisted at the crash scene.
“Thank you for all the good human spirits, from Christchurch to Wellington, all around the world,” Ms Eades said. “It has been a tough couple of weeks, the worst I hope we ever experience. Thank you [Iva] for making your dad and I so, so proud and for loving us as much as I love you.” Iva was described as a “three-year-old” going on 21 years old”, who loved the colour pink, to paint her nails and turned her nose up at chocolate, preferring vegetables and hummus instead. Mrs Eades had lived in the Wellington region for periods since 1975, and worked for Kirkcaldie & Stains as well as being involved in her local church at Raumati. The couple had moved back to Britain last year, where Mrs Eades became ‘inseparable” from her granddaughter. “They are a perfect double act who played off each other,” a tribute read out from Britain said. “She did not tell you how to live life, she showed you.” A family member said the accident was a “hard lesson for all of us” and served as a reminder to drivers about what fatigue could result in.
“We need to forgive. I know it won’t be easy.” Mr Eades has decided not to return to Britain but to remain in Wellington so he will be close to the graves of his wife and granddaughter.
His cousin’s funeral will take place in Britain. Police have said Mr Eades will be charged with careless driving causing death. They postponed laying charges to give him time to grieve with family. Mr Eades has said that he will plead guilty.
©Reproduced courtesy of the Dominion Post