News Release

Memorial Service Held for American Visitors Killed in Car Accident

A memorial service was held last night in honour of three visitors to New Zealand who passed away on Wednesday (11 March) evening due to a tragic car accident near Temple View.

Dr Richard Barnett and his wife Tammy Barnett were visiting New Zealand with friends Mitchell and Ruth Peterson, all from Utah in the United States, and all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tammy Barnett, Mitchell Peterson and Ruth Peterson died in the accident on Wednesday. Dr Barnett sustained minor injuries and has been discharged from hospital.

Over 500 people attended the service which was held at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Muir Park Stake Centre on Higgins Road, Hamilton.

Latter-day Saint choirs sang at the memorial service including the Glenview Stake Youth Choir, a men’s choir and singers representing the New Zealand Latter-day Saint Labour Missionaries.

Dr Barnett’s son Christopher and a family friend travelled to New Zealand to be with him and make arrangements for the bodies of the deceased to be flown back to the United States.

Dr Barnett told those at the service last night, “I am overwhelmed with the number of people who are here tonight — especially given I only know about four of you.”

“The Lord has shown me many tender mercies in the last few days. The youth choir that sang tonight reminds me of the youth choir at home that I have directed for 17 years. The song that the male ensemble performed (Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy) is one of my most favourite. I am thoroughly and completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of compassion and love. Words do not exist to express what I feel in my soul. I express my undying appreciation to my Kiwi brothers and sisters.”

Christopher Barnett said, “We have been so blessed and so loved I will never forget what the Kiwis have done for me and my family. My mother was one of eight children and the only girl. Her love of family was fierce. She was happiest when she was with her family. Her laugh was contagious, she was bigger than life, she was caring, generous and compassionate. I have felt the love of the Saviour as you have done as the Saviour instructed. I was a stranger and you took me in, I was sick and you visited me, I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me. Thank you for your grace and your comfort. Your willingness to suffer with us as we suffer.”

A message was read during the service from the Peterson family. It stated: “The Petersons loved their home town of Monroe and did their best to bring joy to those around them. They were devoted parents. Their children were the centre of their universe. They were excited to explore NZ. We will miss them and their constant generosity to all.”

Some of those in attendance at the service shared their feelings afterwards.

Howard Metekingi said, "It is so sad that they were in a foreign country when this tragedy happened.  I like to think that should something tragic like this should happen to one of our own in a foreign land that others would reach out to them and support them until we could bring them home again.”

14-year-old Rosie Peterson said, "I came tonight because they were members of the Church and I feel close to them.  And because they were not in their home country I feel like I owe it to them to be here tonight.”

Mr Tim Macindoe, Member of Parliament for Hamilton West, sent his condolences asking that his "prayers and sympathy be conveyed to the families involved.” Letters of support were also received from members of the Waikato Interfaith Council. 

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.