Regional | Northland

‘She loved rainbows’: Family in shock over toddler Zay Zay’s driveway death

A 20-month-old, who died after being struck by a vehicle in a Kaitāia driveway this week, has been described as the “glue” that “kept [the] family together”, after her younger sister was stillborn in December.

Azalea-Reign Kiani May Samuels, often called ‘Zay Zay’, was a little girl who “loved rainbows”, the family spokesperson, and Azalea’s Aunty, Melina Laveaina told Stuff.

“And she loved unicorns, but she despised dresses,” she said, adding that the toddler would always much prefer a fresh tracksuit.

Azalea-Reign’s mother, Tuhiata Samuels, had been staying in the Far North town near whānau, after the death of her youngest daughter, Cartier Poulgrain, who was stillborn on December 5, 2023.

But less than one month later, her only other child, Azalea, was critically injured in what Laveaina said was a “pure accident” on January 4.

She was airlifted to Auckland’s Starship hospital but died on Friday.

Laveaina told Stuff the whānau had not yet mourned the death of Cartier when tragedy struck the family again. The young girl’s death, “has not sunk in yet. Everyone’s in shock”.

. The 20-month-old toddler loved rainbows and unicorns, her whānau say.

“This is definitely hitting the family really hard at the moment,” she said.

Little Zay Zay, especially after the loss of Cartier, was the “glue of the family”.

“She was very energetic. She definitely had that, “it’s all about me [attitude],” Laveaina said, adding that, “she always got her way”.

“She was not a baby that you would expect to just pass away. She honestly was the one thing that kept our family together. She was the sole purpose of everyone’s life.”

For now, the focus of the family is on Samuels, who Laveaina said is “trying to grieve, but she’s a selfless person”.

Despite having lost “her whole family”, Laveaina described her as someone who is always more worried about others, including her partner and Zay Zay’s godparents, who don’t have children of their own, and treated Azalea as their own.

“[Tuhiata] is going to need comfort. Azalea was her only comfort since baby died.”

“Zay Zay” was the “glue of the family”, her Aunty told Stuff.

The “close-knit” whānau is providing plenty of aroha, and were also thankful for the support provided by the wider Far North community.

“Friends, family, strangers even. The support she received in the passing of both her babies. It’s so unexpected but heart-warming. We’re so grateful [to everyone].”

Whānau had been paying tribute to Azalea-Reign on social media on Saturday morning, and a Givealittle page was set up. Funds are being raised to cover funeral costs and ongoing bills, to allow Samuels time to grieve.

“We are simply without words to express the tremendous loss we feel,” the page description reads.

“To lose one child is unimaginable, however, our beautiful, kind-hearted cousin has loss both her children within 4 weeks of each other. Our family is broken, and our hearts are heavy. Words can’t describe how unfair this is.”

Following the accident, Laveaina told Stuff the whānau wants to ensure “everyone out there” does all they can to protect their children and ensure they stay safe.

“The smallest coffins, they are really the most heartbreaking. We don’t want any family to go through what we’re going through right now,” she said.

“Life can be taken away just like that.”