Sombre vigil: Aucklanders text to send their love to victims, Tongan leader Tāmeifuna says

    by Kalino Latu & Sefita Haoʻuli

    Tongan leader Ika Tāmeifuna told  a sombre vigil at the Katikati War Memorial Hall tonight the Tongans in Auckland texted and ask him to send their loves to four of the Tongans victims who were killed on a crash Tuesday 2.

    Tāmeifuna, who headed the NZ Immigration service in Tonga when the RSE programme started in 2007 recalled the efforts both New Zealand and the Tongan governments took to make sure that workers were made aware of the benefits as well as the risks in their new working environment.

    “No one envisaged that we would be here in Katikati tonight to farewell four young men under these tragic circumstances”, he told the gathering.

    He was part of a delegation of Auckland residents representing the Pacific Leadership Group who came to Katikati to pay their respects and to pass on funds which were raised by a Tongan construction company in Auckland for the victims’ families.

    Sitiveni Vaipulu, 44, his son Koli Vaipulu, 21, Sione Teulaka, 21, Halani Fine, 29, and Samuela Taukatelata, 28, all died instantly when the car they were in collided with a logging truck in New Zealand’s 3rd most dangerous highway.

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    Fine’s body had been taken by his family to Northshore, New Zealand where he was expected to be buried on Thursday.

    Families and loved ones of the victims will observe the Tongan ‘āpō’ or night vigil until dawn when the cortege will return to Tauranga awaiting transit to Auckland for the final trip home to Tonga on Friday morning.

    Earlier tonight more than 50 workers from the Aongatete Coolstores where the deceased worked visited to pay tribute and farewelled their former workmates in a moving ceremony and were led by the RSE Coordinator Mr Clive Exelby.

    Church leaders from the Siasi Tonga Hou’eiki, the Latter Day Saints as well as the Siasi Tonga Tau’ataina came to offer prayers as is customary for Tongan funerals.

    The venue is on the main street of this small township and although it has a growing Tongan community of around 300 their numbers have swelled to more than a thousand over the last few days.

    A Tongan vigil is a night of continuous solemn songs of praise and as Tāmeifuna observed, on this cold winters night in rural Katikati, one could have easily be in Lavengatonga, Ahau or Navutoka where the deceased all hail from.

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