4 Apr 2016

Teenage girl remembered after unexplained death

8:08 am on 4 April 2016

The teenager whose body was found on the side of the road in Otorohanga is being remembered as hard-working, conscientious and a keen sports player.

The police are trying to find out how the young woman died and are not ruling out a vehicle being involved.

State Highway 3 just north of Otorohanga township was closed for much of the day yesterday as pathologists and other experts investigated.

The teenager was a former pupil of Te Kuiti High School, which has confirmed her name as Ocean Heke. She was 17.

Acting principal Ripeka Price said support strategies would be put in place there this morning because not only do her friends still go there - but a younger sibling does too.

"She has a younger sister who's on our school roll, she will have friends also, so it will have an impact on that younger group.

"I'll be mindful and staff members will too of little groups forming... just to have the discussion and staff themselves will be on hand to lend support."

Ms Ripeka said the school's social worker would also be leading a support plan.

She said Ocean left the school about two years ago but came back briefly last year.

"I understand that when she left us she went to live with family in Hamilton, and was doing quite well.

"While she was at school my memory of her is hard-working, conscientious - loved her sports, and was always involved in that.

"She was in our school's Ki-o-Rahi team that went to nationals on two occasions... she was one of the leadership members of that team," Ms Ripeka said.

She said Ocean was always conscious of how well she was doing academically and asked for help when she needed it.

"Gone too soon, so to speak, unnecessary really," she said.

Parties, skidding and burnouts

A woman who lives just down the road from where the teenager's body was found said there were two parties being held.

Lauren Zanders said parties were not usual for the area, and when they did happen, they never got out of hand.

"There were a couple of parties but that never really worries us because where we are the neighbours are very respectful... nothing gets overboard.

"I think one was a celebration, a birthday and the other was across the road - they just kept to themselves having fun, and respectfully as well."

But Ms Zanders does recall hearing loud car noises at some point in the night.

"In the wee small hours we did hear a car. I guess the best wording would be skidding out or burnouts... not just the normal idiots doing a squeal and carrying on - it went for quite a while."

Otorohanga mayor Max Baxter told Morning Report the death had been a huge shock to the community.

"At this stage there still seems to be somebody who needs to come forward and if that is the case I really ask them to do so to help the family with their grief."

Mr Baxter said there had been a lot of speculation and he hoped police could shed more light on things today.