Boy orphaned with sister in fatal car crash asks: 'Where is mum and dad'

Two-year-old Heath Shortland sometimes asks where his mum and dad are.

Tuesday marked what would have been the 29th birthday of his dad, Jesse Shortland. 

Jesse died last October in a car crash, alongside wife Samantha, travelling home to Invercargill after going to his father's funeral in Hokitika.

Heath, just two years old, and his little sister Skylar, were also in the car, but their injuries were minor.

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In a couple of weeks, Skylar will turn one.

Samantha and Jesse had moved to New Zealand from Queensland, Australia, eight weeks before the incident, following her parents, who had moved back to Invercargill earlier in 2017.

The couple had a head-on collision on the Dipton-Winton Highway, near Ladbrook Rd, about 9.30pm on Sunday, October 8.

German tourist Marina Liebl, 22, was in the other car and also died at the scene.

Jesse's sister Krystal-Leigh Shortland said the family had had a bit of a get-together this week to celebrate his birthday, including a barbecue and a pavlova-cake to celebrate his birthday.

"We just did things that he would have liked. It was good, but also really sad. 

"Personally myself I am struggling with coming to terms that he's gone," Krystal-Leigh said.

The birthday had been harder than the first Christmas or New Year without the couple around, she said.

It was on Jesse's birthday that all the emotions properly boiled up.

"Look, we are still trying to come to terms with what happened. It's pretty sad. Not just for us, there was another person also," Krystal-Leigh said, referring to tourist Liebl.

"Her family are having to go through all of this too."

Heath and Skylar are living in Invercargill with Samantha's parents. The children are thriving, despite Heath sometimes wanting to see his parents, Krystal-Leigh said.

All the money raised on a Givealittle page, which was more than $20,000, had been placed into a trust fund for the children to use when they were older.

Krystal-Leigh and Jesse were close.

"Our parents had split up and both had had other kids. We were each others' main family. We always had each others' back."

Having both her father, and her only full-blooded sibling die in short succession had actually brought her and her mother closer together.

"I guess it's the silver lining. But we have really had to be there for each other through all of this."

It was also a reminder for people to be careful when driving, turn off the cellphones, don't be tired and don't speed, Krystal-Leigh said.

"I don't know how much of a difference it is going to make, but just take care out there."

Former NZ First MP Ria Bond, Jesse's aunt, had been due to travel with the couple in the car, and then had changed her mind due to a complication with changing flights.

Bond is also believed to be helping with raising the young children.

The case is still with the coroner.

 - Sunday Star Times