Mum loses ‘absolute world’ after ‘SonShine’ Manawatū Jets star Jake McKinlay dies in Horowhenua crash

The mother of promising young basketball star Jake McKinlay lost her “absolute world” when he was killed in a crash this week.

Now the sports community is rallying to support her as she tries to cope with his death.

McKinlay, 20, died after a crash involving a car and a truck on State Highway 1 in Horowhenua on Monday morning.

Described as a “young man full of talent and heart”, he signed with the Manawatū Jetsthis year.

It's with heavy hearts and immense sadness; we mourn the passing of a member of the Jets family, Jake McKinlay, who was…

Yesterday the team set up a Givealittle page to support McKinlay’s mother Gayna after the tragedy.

They said McKinlay was “a son, grandson, nephew, godson and friend to so many” and was killed as he made his way home.

“[He had] his entire life ahead of him, ” said Manawatu Basketball competitions and events coordinator Tess Petley on the Givealittle page.

“Talented, kind and always wore a smile a mile wide.

“A hard working and determined young man who lit up the basketball courts as well as any room he walked into.

“Jake leaves behind his amazing mumma, Gayna, who will have to navigate a way forward without her SONshine. Her absolute world.”

Petley said the organisation had set up the fundraising page to help McKinlay’s whanau “as they prepare to farewell this beautiful young man”.

“Please support in any way you are willing and are able, please accept our gratitude and humble thanks on behalf of Gayna and the family.

“E moe e tama, rest Jake. You will always hold a special place in the hearts of so many.”

The team earlier confirmed McKinlay’s death in a social media post.

“It’s with heavy hearts and immense sadness, we mourn the passing of a member of the Jets family, Jake McKinlay, who was tragically taken in a car accident this morning,” it read.

“We have no words that can express the sorrow and loss of this exceptional young man who still had his whole life ahead of him.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to Jake’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

The team later posted a further tribute, saying McKinlay “set the bar so high for others to follow”.

“Your work ethic was second to nobody,” said the team.

“The times we would sit in our office and see you out on the courts striving to be your best – day in and day out, leaving only when you had emptied the tank and some.

“We are so proud of the young man you were – the kindness you showed the younger generation will be missed by those rangatahi and tamariki you worked with.”

They acknowledged Gayna McKinlay for her part in her son’s sporting success.

“Those who know you both will attest to the fact that you are all those wonderful things that you are – because of her and the amazing mum she was to you,” said the team.

“Rest now Jake knowing you have left a memory that will live on in our hearts forever.”

The team said McKinlay’s family were “grateful and humbled for the love and support offered” so far.

In a tweet, the New Zealand National Basketball League said they were “devastated” to hear of McKinlay’s death.

“Our thoughts go out to the basketball community in the Manawatū and Wellington, and we send all our aroha to his friends and family,” the tweet read.

The Wellington Saints and the Nelson Giants also took to social media to express their heartbreak.

“We as a Saints Family stand alongside our brothers and sisters from The Jets and Jake’s whānau as we mourn the loss of an exceptional talent gone too soon.

“A young man full of talent and heart, fly high brother,” the team tweeted.

As captain of the successful 2018 Boys’ High premier squad, McKinlay was named in the New Zealand secondary schools’ tournament team and the Junior Tall Blacks.

In the same year, he also debuted for the Jets.

Police today confirmed the driver of the car died at the scene, and the truck driver suffered moderate injuries.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

So far more than $9500 has been donated to McKinlay’s family.

If you want to help the Givealittle page can be found here:

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