WHY DID JONO DIE?
By CRAIG McTEAR
SAM McKenzie needs to know what happened to her brother, Jonathon.
And she hopes there is someone out there who cares enough to help her.
For reasons which remain unclear, Jonathon ended up lying near the middle of the road on Hogbin Drive, just north of the airport turnoff, before he was hit by a southbound car.
Jono, as the 18-year-old was affectionately known, died from massive injuries which investigators said were consistent with that collision.
That was on May 11, 2005, but a year on, many questions remain.
"The truth of that night has yet to be revealed ? the truth about what happened before my brother took his last breath. The truth about his death," Sam, 16, said in a letter to the Advocate.
"We still don't have any answers. We don't have closure and Jono has no justice.
"We lost a brother, a son, a father and just a plain wonderful guy. Parts of me died that day, my faith and hope gone.
"People who loved and cared for him are still weeping today with his memory.
"He always was my big brother. He looked out for me and watched over my life, protecting me from the big bad world.
"He was a guy you wanted on your side because so many respected him."
Sam and her family have heard plenty of stories about why Jono may have been on the road ? that he was attacked and left there, or that he was picked up by someone and thrown out of their car.
"Every lead the police have followed has led to nothing," Jono's mum, Donnalee Ball, said.
What his family does know is that in the hours leading up to his death, he had been to a party at the Jetty and he'd been drinking.
"We knew he could drink quite a lot and could handle it," Donnalee said.
"We heard that he was supposed to go home with a mate. When he discovered his lift had gone, he probably decided he had no option but to walk to his mate's place at Sawtell.
"I'm starting to accept in my head that perhaps Jono just had too much to drink, walked in the night air and passed out, not realising, on the road.
"It's not a possibility I've wanted to entertain, but I can't ignore it. "If that's what happened, it was his own stupidity, and alcohol.
"Now there's a little girl left behind without a dad."
Perhaps Jono's family will never find the answers they are seeking, but they aren't giving up. Donnalee has requested a coronial inquiry.
"Perhaps only after that happens I'll be able to say 'okay, Jono's gone, we can't bring him back, he's got a daughter and we have to move on and be there for her'."
Jono knew he and his girlfriend were going to be parents and, according to Donnalee, he'd started to make changes.
"He was trying to get his act together, because he wanted to be a good dad," Donnalee said.
"The toxicology report showed his system was completely clear of any drugs, but his alcohol level was quite high.
"I've heard a lot of his friends say that because he'd stopped smoking marijuana, they had followed suit. I said 'okay, but what about what alcohol can do'.
When Jono's daughter was born on October 4 last year, five months after his death, Donnalee broke down.
"It was just like seeing Jono again. It was a mixture of joy and elation, but there was also sadness.
"I see my grand-daughter and her mother as much as I can. You realise how important and precious family is, and you appreciate it.
"Jono and I weren't as close at the end as I would have liked. You think you've got time, but you don't always have time.
"Jono's death has changed my life in every way. I don't think there could be anything worse than losing a child. I think it's the most devastating thing I could ever go through.
"Wanting to know how he got onto the road pretty much takes up my mind."
Donnalee and Jono's dad, Kevin McKenzie, have met the Toormina man whose car ran over their son.
"I can appreciate it must have been very hard for him. He has to live with it for the rest of his life," Donnalee said.
"There was nothing he could have done. He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I've never had any ill-feeling towards him."