The death of New Zealand rugby union player Sean Wainui is being treated as a suspected suicide, according to a coroner.
The 25-year-old, who played for Super Rugby team the Chiefs, Bay of Plenty and the Māori All Blacks, died in a car crash at McLaren Falls Park in the Bay of Plenty on 18 October.
He was the sole occupant of the car. Wainui is survived by his wife Paige and their two children.
The coroner Louella Dunn confirmed on Tuesday that Wainui’s case is being treated as a suspected suicide.
In a post to social media, his wife Paige expressed her grief and paid tribute to Wainui.
“I’m in absolute pieces and in so much pain knowing my whole other half to me has left this earth…but I will forever celebrate you my love for being the most amazing and incredible husband and father you were and the special years we got to spend together on this earth.”
Wainui was one of the brightest stars in Super Rugby, having made his debut in the competition for the Crusaders in 2016 before joining the Chiefs in 2018.
The centre and occasional winger made 44 appearances for the Hamilton-based club, scoring 90 points. In May this year signed for NPC team Bay of Plenty for the 2021 provincial rugby season.
Wainui made headlines earlier this year when he became the first Super Rugby player to score five tries in a single match, in the Chiefs’ one-sided win over the Waratahs in Sydney.
In a statement on Monday last week, New Zealand Rugby said it was a “dark day” for the game.
“Our thoughts are with Sean and his whānau [family], particularly Paige, Kawariki and Arahia, and we offer them our full support at what is the most difficult of times,” NZR chief executive Mark Robinson said.
“We know Sean’s passing will be felt deeply by everyone involved in rugby, particularly his Bay of Plenty and Chiefs teammates, and we share their sorrow and their shock.”