All Blacks' Collins and wife die in crash while tot critical
Former All Blacks star Jerry Collins and his wife Alana Madill have died after their car was hit by a bus on a road outside the southern French town of Beziers.
The couple’s baby daughter, Ayla, was also airlifted to hospital with serious injuries.
Police said Ms Madill was driving and Collins (34) was in the back when the accident happened about half an hour from Narbonne, where the former All Black has played since January.
According to police, Ms Madill lost control of the car at 3am and hit security barriers before stopping in the slow lane of the road. The bus travelling behind was unable to avoid the vehicle.
Tributes to the former All Blacks player and his family poured in after the tragedy.
“The news has shocked us all and our thoughts are with Jerry and Alana’s families at this sad time,” New Zealand Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said. “We offer our condolences to them and will support them.”
All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu tweeted: “Rest in peace my brother JC (and) your lovely lady. You will be surely missed.”
Ireland star Brian O’Driscoll added: “Terrible news about Jerry Collins & his wife in France.”
Australian Rugby Union chief executive officer Bill Pulver also paid tribute to “one of the toughest forwards in the game”. He said the star was “right up there with all-time great players”.
Collins rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most feared and admired rugby players of his generation.
He showed huge potential early, becoming a high school star, winning selection for New Zealand Secondary Schools and being named player of the tournament at a Junior World Cup.
His elevation to the All Blacks in 2001 at the age of only 20 was no surprise and, though injury briefly interrupted his career, he returned to the side to become a first-team regular.