A school brass band group from Mailefihi Siuʻilikutapu College in Vavaʻu involved in a fatal crash near Gisborne Saturday 24 was in New Zealand with a mission to fundraise $200,000 for the college’s 70th anniversary next year.
A bus from Auckland carrying over 45 members of the brass band group, crashed down a bank near Gisborne around 9:30pm on the road between Wairoa and Gisborne, Police said.
Talita Moimoi and a male student Sione Taumalolo died in the crash.
It has been reported a 19-year-old boy and 65-year-old man have been discharged while six others remain in a stable condition at Gisborne hospital.
The passengers were travelling to Gisborne where they were due to perform on Christmas Day as part of their fundraising programmes.
Kaniva has learned the bus driver was Tongan and he is known by the heraldic title Māsila from Auckland and he was unfamiliar with the road in the area.
Hifo Tolu, the secretary of the College’s alumni in Gisborne, told Kaniva News they organised a welcoming ceremony for the group and expected them to arrive at 3pm.
She said after waiting for more than two hours they received reports the bus became lost and went to Napier instead of Gisborne.
The Gisborne Tongan community then sent a man to look for the bus and he finally met them. ʻ
Tolu said the man in his vehicle guided the bus and while they were on their way to Gisborne the bus crashed.
A number of passengers were airlifted or transported to Gisborne and Hastings Hospitals last night and were receiving medical attention, Police said.
Other passengers were transported from the crash scene in a second bus which was brought in to assist, they were triaged and assessed at the St Johns Ambulance base in Gisborne.
Members from the group not requiring hospitalisation or further medical treatment are now being accommodated by the local Tongan community, Methodist Church, and Victim Support who are caring for and comforting these people.
Police said the extraction of the bus will be challenging as it’s 100m down a steep bank, and it likely to take a number of days to complete.
According to a statement released by the chair of the College’s alumni in Auckland Rev. Mele Suipi Lātū on December 13, the Tamaki College teacher pleaded with the ex-students in New Zealand to help and donate for the fundraising.
She said the brass band group came to New Zealand to fundraise and collected New Zealand alumni’s share of $200,000 paʻanga for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Mailefihi Siuʻilikutapu college in 2017.
Lātū said the group was divided into two when they arrived in Auckland from Tonga to facilitate the fundraising.
She said one group went to Wellington on December 8 and returned to Auckland on Monday 12.
The other group went to Christchurch on December 13 and was expected to return to Auckland tomorrow Monday 26.
She did not mention the travel to Gisborne in her release.
She said the group was expected to return to Tonga on January 10.