Wednesday, 20 Oct 2021

Widow of NZ man killed in Philippines crash prays arrested rider will live to face justice

Dennis Johnston was looking forward to spending the rest of his life with his wife Erlinda in the tropical port town of Jagna.

But Erlinda is now haunted by her husband’s last moments. Johnston, 57, originally from Auckland, was killed on September 24 in a motorbike crash in the Philippines.

Erlinda told the Herald her husband eerily said not long ago he didn’t need to sleep much, because he could sleep as much as he wanted when he was dead.

The rider of the other motorcycle has been arrested – and Erlinda believes that rider was on a suicide mission.

“He’s still at the emergency room. He’s under arrest. But I told them to let him live. Don’t let him die.”

She wants him to face justice.

Erlinda was told the other rider had a relative with a brain tumour or similar serious health problem and was facing enormous medical bills.

She believed if he was killed, his family would have received a payout, so he embarked on an attempted suicide mission.

Instead, he survived, but the crash took the life of a husband, friend and father.

Erlinda understood the other rider was speeding and narrowly missed another vehicle before colliding with her husband.

The couple have a 2-year-old son called Jayden, and an active social life hosting friends at their new home in Bohol province, south-central Philippines.

Johnston had just got a new bike and joked about how fast and noisy it was, Erlinda said.

But that Friday night he was riding a different motorcycle and Erlinda still has no clue why he went out.

Local police are investigating. Erlinda supplied CCTV footage from a house next to the crash scene.

In the distressing footage, a motorcyclist hurtles down the wrong side of the road, a terrible screeching and loud smash is heard, then a fireball seen and sparks flying.

Within five seconds, another rider stopped at the scene. Five seconds later, another. And within a few more seconds, residents had raced out of their homes to see what happened.

Erlinda was annoyed that so many people seemed to stand around doing nothing in the minutes that followed, but she accepted Johnston died instantly.

“I’m just glad that he died right away. If he did live, he would have suffered.”

She received a text on Saturday with the terrible news. She said it was a mystery why Johnston was in a town about 30 minutes’ ride from his home that night.

Local police confirmed to the Herald that a man riding the motorcycle which collided with Johnston was arrested and in hospital.

Erlinda said she was focused on the prosecution, and on funeral arrangements for Johnston.

She spent about $4250 on a coffin, but the coffin she had wanted cost twice as much and she couldn’t afford it.

Johnston’s body was at his Jagna home this week, a shrine around his coffin, and Erlinda hoped a priest would conduct a mass at the home before Dennis’ funeral this weekend.

Meanwhile, Jayden is probably too young to know what’s going on, his mum says.

She understood Johnston had siblings in New Zealand and an adult daughter in Adelaide.

Erlinda has heard nothing from New Zealand, where Johnston grew up and used to work as a mail sorter.

Erlinda hopes Johnston is not remembered for the terrible crash, but for the decent man he was.

“He was nice, sweet and caring.”

She said Johnston had voiced a desire to visit New Zealand again, if only to see the snow.

Her husband had spoken in the past of how he’d want to be farewelled. Erlinda was trying to remember the song Johnston once said he wanted played at his funeral.

She believed it was Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence.

Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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