Teen beat cancer, died in car crash

FOUR years after John Benson faced surgery for kidney cancer at the tender age of 13, he was planning for the future.

But the Glen Oak teenager’s dreams were tragically cut short on a country road minutes from his family home.

His father Adam said the family’s first sign something was wrong was a blackout that sparked a feeling of dread in his wife, Louise.

‘‘When the accident happened the lights went off,’’ Mr Benson said.

At 17 John had just had two successful job interviews, had the love and support of his family and a new car he rarely wanted to get out of.

Driving home from a mate’s place at Rutherford last Thursday, the same day he clinched both jobs, the teenager struck a power pole on Clarence Town Road.

He died at the scene.

The teenager had been driving the white sedan for about eight days after upgrading from an older car he had tinkered with, Mr Benson said.

‘‘He never got out of it for the eight days he had it,’’ Mr Benson said.

Mr Benson said that even when John had been facing down cancer at a young age his upbeat outlook had shone through.

He said his son had a quiet optimism, selfless sense of humour and zest for life that he tried to share whenever possible.

‘‘We got more [from knowing John] than we ever could have dreamed,’’ he said.

‘‘He really appreciated everything and wasn’t a person to bag out anyone, even if they deserved it.

‘‘We have been privileged to have had another four years [with him] and I would have liked to have another 40.’’

Hundreds had offered support to the family in the aftermath of the tragic accident, Mr Benson said, with many paying tribute to the teenager’s emotional intuition and constant regard for others.

‘‘He was a man beyond his years,’’ Mr Benson said.

Among those paying tribute to John were classmates from Seaham Public School, Maitland Christian School and St Philip’s Christian College at Waratah.

John’s best mate, Toby Hancock, said he would always remember him for his ‘‘ridiculous duck-face smile’’ and inclusive sense of humour.

‘‘He took the mickey out of everyone, but he did it in a fun way,’’ Mr Hancock said.

John’s mother Louise said her family had rallied around the youngest son as he fought the illness, an ordeal that had strengthened the links between them.

‘‘It was a competition [among his siblings] to have John over to stay,’’ she said.

Mrs Benson said her son never shied away from his affectionate tendencies and was remarkably emotionally perceptive.

‘‘He had an incredibly bright outlook on life ... he just loved people to be themselves [and] they always felt comfortable with him,’’ she said.

‘‘It just seemed like he was an angel passing through.’’

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