Footy star whose wife died in a devastating car accident leaving behind the couple’s young daughter reveals how he managed to turn his life around from the depths of despair
- Former Hawke’s Bay star Chris Eaton lost his wife in a car crash in March 2013
- Hannah died just hours before he was supposed to make his big debut in Sydney
- Eaton retired from rugby to look after their four-year-old daughter Layla in NZ
A professional rugby union player has opened up about his intense struggle to recover after his wife was killed in a car accident – leaving behind the couple’s young daughter.
Chris Eaton, 35, was preparing for a game with the Western Force in Sydney in 2013 when he was given the tragic news.
His wife Hannah, 25, had been driving to her parents’ home in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand – where their four-year-old daughter Layla had been staying for Easter – when she fell asleep behind the wheel.
Her vehicle collided head-on with an 4WD, killing her instantly.
Mrs Eaton, who had just graduated with a bachelor of midwifery and was about to start a new job, died just hours before her husband was due to take the field.
Former Hawke’s Bay star Chris Eaton with his late wife Hannah and their daughter Layla. Hannah, 25, died in a car accident on a state highway in New Zealand in 2013.
Pictured Eton with his daughter Layla and new wife Yahna, who he married in August
Eaton said he struggled to go on without his wife but his desire to support his daughter Layla kept him motivated despite his heartbreak.
‘It became my main driver. As much as it was for her, it was also what I needed to get myself out of bed, if you know what I mean? Because I had her, it kept me going,’ he told the New Zealand Herald.
Eaton was trying to live up to the promise he had made to Layla at his wife’s funeral.
‘I’ll always be the dad that will play Barbies with you, darling; I’ll brush your hair and take you to ballet. I’ll also take you to rugby,’ he said during the service.
Eaton was so devastated by his wife’s death that he stopped playing rugby.
‘I just remember having so much to deal with. You’re trying to make sure you function somewhat, though I didn’t sleep for maybe three or four days. I don’t think I ate in that period of time. I was just grinding it out,’ he said.
‘Once all that stuff came to an end, that’s when mentally things start to hit the fan a bit. There’re so many people around you and everyone’s willing to help and eventually life goes back to normal for everyone and you’re left sitting at home by yourself. That’s when the really tough stuff starts to happen.’
The turning point in his life came when he competed in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament and performed well.
The martial arts competition reignited the spark in him, leading to his return to the sport he loved the most.
Eaton said he began playing the best rugby in a long time as he couldn’t care less about the results.
Sport became an escape from his grief.
Eaton met Yahna a year after the death of his wife. He married her at their in their native Hawke’s Bay in August
Eaton said he wanted to initially keep Yahna and Layla separate as he wanted to be absolutely sure of his commitment to another woman before introducing her to his daughter
He met Yahna a year after the death of his wife, and the pair later married.
Eaton said he wanted to initially keep Yahna – who he married in New Zealand in August – and Layla separate as he wanted to be absolutely sure of his commitment to another woman before introducing her to his daughter.
The footy star is now living in Russia playing for local club RC Kuban.