'Waste of a good man': Social media star Johnny 'Danger' Bennett's parents a year on from losing their son

Johnny 'Danger' Bennett's parents have spoken about losing their son.
Johnny 'Danger' Bennett's parents have spoken about losing their son. Photo credit: Supplied.

For the Bennett family, Anzac Day will forever hold a different meaning than for most Kiwis.

In Gina and Steven's eyes, it marks the day 12 months ago when they lost their son Johnny 'Danger.'

He was riding his motorbike on Dairy Flat Highway, when he came off and fatally struck a power pole at around 2pm.

Gina was with some friends at the casino when she looked at her phone to see 17 missed calls from her son Wayne, with a message saying Johnny had been in an accident.

Paramedics were doing their best to revive the 29-year-old social media comedian, but he wasn't breathing.

"It's not looking good," one message read. Steven was in Mission Bay and rushed to pick up Gina from Skycity.

Johnny's parents Gina and Steve were forced to sit through traffic as they made their way to North Shore Hospital where they believed he was. (Pictured: The Bennett family).
Johnny's parents Gina and Steve were forced to sit through traffic as they made their way to North Shore Hospital where they believed he was. (Pictured: The Bennett family). Photo credit: Supplied.

She'd told him "pick me up now, I need to get to the hospital". He said he was on his way.

Steven was thinking either Gina's mum or dad had fallen ill. When he got to her, he asked which hospital to drive to and who was there. 

"I said 'it's Johnny' and then I paused and said 'I don't think he's made it,'" Gina says.

"We both just broke down sobbing."

The couple painstakingly sat through traffic headed to North Shore Hospital only to be redirected to the morgue at Auckland City Hospital. 

Johnny not 'Danger' 
 

Johnny's parents remember their son as an energetic child with a lot of friends.

"Happy and fun loving, he always cheered everyone up," Gina says. 

Johnny was extremely physically capable, taking out local competitions all throughout high school years as a keen athlete, skateboarder, gymnast and star rugby player.  

At 12 years old he represented NZ in running in Australia after placing first in the 1500m and second in the 800m.

He was the top New Zealand skater for under 17s at 13 years old before moving on to a sport where his agility could be put to the test.

Gina says her son was a happy, energetic and cheerful little boy.
Gina says her son was a happy, energetic and cheerful little boy. Photo credit: Supplied.

After being picked for the Warriors Development squad Johnny broke his ankle, deterring him from an immediate career in league.

When it healed, he went into Rugby Sevens where he broke the record for the beep test.

He ran 40m in 4.9 seconds.  Steven says he was the fastest and the fittest. 

Johnny had a fierce loyalty to his family and one of his dreams included buying them a home of their own.

Steven and Johnny spent quality time together at Spring Hill Prison after a 21st birthday they attended got out of hand.

Johnny got hit first and he hit back, but police said it was over the top. Steven was jailed for nine months and Johnny for 15.

"Everybody loved Johnny at Spring Hill," Gina joked. "He was a model prisoner - he got everyone into working out." 

Johnny pictured with his two brothers.
Johnny pictured with his two brothers. Photo credit: Supplied.

"You can't even get away from your dad while you're in jail," Johnny joked to her in a letter.

"We were celled up together because we had such good records," Steven says. "Co-offenders weren't even meant to see each other."

When he got out, that was his turning around point and Johnny decided to travel, visiting Europe for about five months.

Stops included Amsterdam, Beer Fest in Germany, Hungary, Greece, Belgium, Yacht Week Croatia and running with the Bulls in Spain.

Upon his return it wasn't long before a video of him car surfing across Auckland Harbour Bridge went viral, giving Johnny status among police - who charged with creating a criminal nuisance by doing an unlawful act in 2013 - and 13,000 fans captivated by the newly-dubbed amateur stuntman's boldness by the time he was sentenced in 2015.

'A waste of a good man'

 

His parents say they didn't really realise how many people Johnny made laugh, helped, befriended and connected with in the years following.

At his time of death, their son boasted more than 214,000 followers on Instagram, 316,000 on Facebook and hosted a popular Snapchat channel with close to one million subscribers.

The amateur stuntman and social media comedian became known after car surfing on a taxi across the Harbour Bridge.
The amateur stuntman and social media comedian became known after car surfing on a taxi across the Harbour Bridge. Photo credit: Supplied.

"I'd look over and he'd be filming and I'd say 'oh you little shit', get that bloody camera off me'," she laughs.

Johnny's videos struck a chord with a diverse and international crowd of young people keen for a laugh. 

"He always hated bullies," Gina says. "He always looked after kids that were left out. He'd turn a bully into a real good bugger straight away."

She said even about the guy who made a big deal out of him selling his beers at Pak n Save, he didn't hold a grudge against him. 

His videos struck a chord with a diverse fan base, gaining close to one million followers on Snapchat alone.
His videos struck a chord with a diverse fan base, gaining close to one million followers on Snapchat alone. Photo credit: Supplied.

Johnny would say 'oh well, that's it, you get your lovers and your haters. That never worried him'." 

That negative stuff he never took in, he didn't want to know about it. Even when you told him off he wouldn't really answer back, he'd just stand there and take it.

'Mum, I'll be over after my ride'
 

Johnny's back brake on his bike was not working.  His parents warned him not to ride the morning of April 25 when Johnny called his mum organising to stop by the family home later that day. He never made it.

Their son was killed after getting into trouble on Dairy Flat Highway

"I have to live with that because I could have fixed it for him. When you get into trouble like that, you need both brakes" Steve says.

"I lost my parents when I was 19/20, you feel empty but when you lose your son you're just torn apart. That's just how it is."

Johnny told his mum he would be over in the day but never made it. Pictured with Netsky at Rhythm and Vines (left) and a George FM event (right).
Johnny told his mum he would be over in the day but never made it. Pictured with Netsky at Rhythm and Vines (left) and a George FM event (right). Photo credit: Supplied.

Gina remembers a feeling of the deepest disbelief sweeping over he as the pair waited in traffic as they headed to the hospital.

"I was thinking 'no, he can't be'." "That feeling aye," Steven added. "Just not wanting to accept it."

Gina said on the day you just go numb. "You sort of think it can't be reality, this has to be a nightmare I'm going to wake up from."

The family had plans to travel to Thailand just two days later for Johnny's sister's 21st birthday.

Gina wanted to cancel all their flights when her son Wayne said Johnny would have wanted them to go.

Gina and Steve want Johnny to be remembered for the "good man" they knew him to be. They say they are very proud of their son.
Gina and Steve want Johnny to be remembered for the "good man" they knew him to be. They say they are very proud of their son. Photo credit: Supplied.

"We felt him a few times, pins and needles, hair standing up on end."

On Thursday Gina, Steve, Johnny's siblings, extended family and friends will gather at the crash site and remember Johnny for the bloke they knew him to be.

His parents say they are immensely proud of their son and the good he created during his short life.        

"He always thought of others first. Always had his mates' backs and they knew it too. He loved to get out and do and have good time," Steven says.

"He could make person confident with in themselves. He turned a lot of misfits into confident people. And he had skill and capabilities to turn a bully into a nice person.

"I'm a very proud father."

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