WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Sean Wainui, a rising star of Super Rugby with the Hamilton-based Chiefs, died Monday in an auto accident. He was 25 and the father of two children.
His death was confirmed by family members and by New Zealand Rugby which said “one of New Zealand Rugby’s tallest Totara trees has fallen.”
Wainui played 44 matches for the Chiefs from 2018. He also played nine times for the Christchurch-based Crusaders and was a New Zealand Maori representative from 2015.
Wainui scored five tries for the Chiefs against the New South Wales Waratahs in June, a Super Rugby record.
Police said they were notified at 7.50 a.m. that a vehicle had crashed into a tree at McLaren Falls Park near Tauranga on New Zealand’s North Island.
Wainui was the only occupant.
“To you Sean, our Rangatira (chief), we farewell you to the outspread arms of the multitudes who await you beyond this earthly realm,” New Zealand Rugby said in a statement. “You leave us here bereft and (to) drown in sorrow as we weep for you.”
Chief executive Mark Robinson sent New Zealand Rugby’s condolences to Wainui’s wife, Paige, and his family.
“Our thoughts are with Sean and his whanau (family), particularly Paige, Kawariki and Arahia, and we offer them our full support,” Robinson said. “We know Sean’s passing will be felt deeply by everyone involved in rugby, particularly his Bay of Plenty and Chiefs teammates, and we share their sorrow and their shock.”
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