There were cruel comments the night Duane Arnold died – assumptions. For his fiance, it stung to hear suggestions he’d been reckless behind the wheel, or had been using Farmborough Road as a race strip.
“Were you in the back seat?” Debra Turner fired off to one online commentator, before she could stop herself.
It was too far at odds with the man she knew - a family man, surf lifesaving stalwart, a capable driver who spent up to 10 hours on the road each day and had “never, ever” had a speeding ticket.
“We had a friend years ago killed on the road,” Ms Turner told the Mercury. “He had a baby girl and now I can imagine how my girlfriend would have been feeling then. Because Duane was my life. He looked after me. He took care of me. That's all he cared about was me and his kids.”
Mr Arnold, 42, was killed when his black Nissan Skyline came unstuck on a roundabout at the fork of Waples Road and Farmborough Road on Thursday night, and t-boned an oncoming car.
Beside him, his teenage son walked away almost without a scratch. In the backseat, the boy’s two friends had different fortunes - one was unharmed; the other spent a difficult three hours trapped, then was flown to hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Mr Arnold, a father of three, bought the Skyline seven months earlier with the blessing of his bride-to-be, herself a mother of four. Before their married life began, she wanted him to have something for himself. It sat in the garage most of the time, but the couple would take it for Sunday drives, Ms Turner said.
The night of the accident, Mr Arnold’s teenage son had friends visiting. Knowing he was an admirer of the car, Mr Arnold offered to take them for a short drive, just to get some milk. They departed the couple’s Farmborough Heights home about 7.30pm. About 9pm Ms Arnold received a call from her fiance’s mother, telling her there had been an acccident.
She waited through the night for updates. She would later learn he had died a few minutes away, on the same road he traveled every day for work, without ever making it as far as the shops.
His proposal, on Christmas Eve, had been simple. He told her beforehand that he wasn’t romantic, but she thought differently.
“He would send me little messages every day, and every single one had hearts in it. Just a little message to say, ‘I love you’ or, ‘thinking of you’,” she said. “It’s about the little things.”
The couple had planned to get married earlier this month, but ultimately they let the date pass. It felt too rushed. Ms Turner wears her engagement ring with new conviction now. “I'll cherish it forever. It doesn’t matter if I’m Mrs Arnold. I I know he wanted to be with me forever.”