WATCH ABOVE: Family, friends and fans are mourning the loss of a well-known rugby star, who met his partner Alana Madill in Grande Prairie.
REGINA — Alana Madill was killed along with her partner Jerry Collins, a former All Blacks rugby player, in a crash in southern France on Friday.
The crash also left the couple’s three-month-old daughter Ayla in critical condition in hospital.
“New Zealand Rugby has tonight expressed its shock and sadness at the death of former All Black Jerry Collins and his partner Alana in a car crash in France earlier today,” the All Blacks said in a statement on Friday.
European news agencies report Madill was driving near the Spanish border with Collins and their baby daughter. Their car was hit by a bus, instantly killing Madill and Collins.
On Facebook, Madill said she went to Regina’s Campbell Collegiate High School.
Collins, 34, played for the All Blacks from 2001 to 2008 and competed in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.
He moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta in 2013, where he met Madill.
“Jerry spent two years with us up here in Grande Prairie,” said Joseph Alaimona, president of Grande Prairie Rugby.
“He was a good man.”
Alaimona grew up in Wellington, New Zealand with Collins and they both went to the same high school. After his time with the All Blacks, Collins was looking for a change, and ended up moving to Alberta.
“I looked up to the guy too,” said Alaimona. “He would definitely be like a Wayne Gretzky of rugby for us in New Zealand.”
“He was quite the man in demand especially on the rugby scene, world-wide.
“He would come to our games and support the local teams… having him around the community was very positive… He was definitely the joker, that’s for sure.”
There was a memorial service held at a rugby game in Grande Prairie on Saturday and local high school rugby teams wore black arm bands during this past weekend’s competition to honour Collins. Grande Prairie Rugby shared photos of the special tribute.
Late last year, Collins was contacted by Narbonne to play rugby with them, said Alaimona.
“It was kind of like he was missing something… his heart wanted to get back into the rugby scene.”
The All Blacks said he signed with the Narbonne club earlier this year.
“The news has shocked us all and our thoughts are with Jerry and Alana’s families at this terribly sad time,” New Zealand Rugby General Manager Rugby Neil Sorensen said. “We offer our deepest condolences to them and will support them as they come to terms with this devastating news.”
“The family and I are distraught at the death of a much-loved son, brother and friend, and his partner Alana,” said Collins’ long-time manager Tim Castle, speaking on behalf of the family.
“I have been in touch with Jerry’s father Frank and other members of his family who are in Samoa at the moment. It’s obviously a terribly difficult time for them and together with New Zealand Rugby we are doing all we can to support them,” added Castle.
“I have also been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are also doing everything they can to ensure that baby Ayla is getting all the care and support she needs. I am very grateful for their support.
“The family would also like to thank everyone for their messages of support and have asked for privacy at this time.”
The All Blacks U20 team also paid tribute to Collins and Madill. They performed a special Haka before their game over the weekend.