Rotherham community mourns little girl's death

  • 04/05/2011

By Hamish Clark

The family of a 10-year-old girl who died when she fell off the back of a pickup truck say they have forgiven the driver.

Sophia Wallace suffered fatal head injuries in the accident. Her death has shocked the farming community of Rotherham, north of Christchurch, where the funeral took place today.

“It just doesn’t seem right to farewell Sophie today,” says school teacher Sheryl Barbara.

Sophia was a popular girl at school, with friends at her funeral talking of how much “fun stuff” they did together.

She was raised by grandparents Peter and Jules Wallace.

“She was our life. She came to us when she was nine weeks old and changed our lives,” says grandfather Peter.

But last Friday, the lives of Mr and Mrs Wallace were tipped upside down, when their little girl was involved in an accident near Waiau.

Sophie with her best friend Cerys were helping move some cows before heading home. They came off the farm and down the road through a ford – both girls riding on the back of the ute. Sophia fell off and hit her head.

Paramedics worked for 40 minutes on the side of the road, trying to save her life.

Mr Wallace rushed to the scene.

“She looked very distraught. I knelt down and cuddled her head into me and I prayed,” he says.

“You go through that scenario, turn back the clock, wish it didn’t happen, wake up and think it was just a dream – but it’s not, it’s here,” says Raoul Sitters, who was driving the ute the day Sophia died.

“I saw her go. I let her go and stepped back while [the paramedics] kept trying, but I knew she was gone,” says Mr Wallace.

Utes are commonplace on New Zealand farms and it is typical for children to ride on the deck – despite it being against the law.

“Safety is paramount on the farm,” says Federated Farmers spokesman Dugald McLean.

“Yes people do get on the back of utes, especially in the feeding out season, but it’s a completely different story when you turn onto the road.”

Despite the tragedy, both Mr Wallace and Mr Sitters carried the coffin out together.

“She adored Raoul,” Mr Wallace said.

“He is a very special man and he has got a huge lifetime sentence mate, as we all have.”

It’s a cloud they will both have to live with, but no doubt get through with the help of the tight community.

3 News

source: newshub archive