2 Jan 2017

Gisborne bus crash - Tongan school group leader dies

12:05 pm on 2 January 2017

Another person who was on the bus that crashed south of Gisborne on Christmas Eve has died, bringing the toll from the crash to three.

Waikato Hospital

Waikato Hospital Photo: Supplied / Waikato DHB / Facebook

The bus was carrying 53 members and supporters on a fund-raising trip from Mailefihi Siu'ilikutapu College on Vava'u, Tonga, when it crashed.

The group had been heading to Gisborne's Wesleyan Methodist Church for a performance.

Police confirmed 55-year-old Leotisia Malakai, who was transferred from Gisborne Hospital the day after the crash, had died.

One of the organisers of the trip, Mele Suipi Fakatava-Latu, said Waikato Hospital told them yesterday that the woman had died.

"She is the head tutor of the school and one of the leaders of the group when they came here."

"At the moment we are trying to negotiate with the family and we are still in the process of talking as to when the body will be ready to be taken to Tonga."

A photo shows one man among the belongings of the group which were strewn down the bank.

A photo shows one man among the belongings of the group which were strewn down the bank. Photo: Facebook / Tonganow

She said one student was still in Hastings Hospital and four were in Middlemore Hospital.

The 18-year-old boy in Hastings Hospital, who had lost his leg, was being helped by his teacher, who had been in the hospital but had since been discharged, she said.

"He is hanging around in Hastings just to be with the students and members of the Tongan community.

"Church ministers and people there and the Tongan community are taking care of them."

A funeral for Talita Fifita, 33, and Sione Taumololo, 11, will be held in Tonga today. Hundreds attended a memorial service in Auckland on Tuesday for Sione and Ms Fifita.

Both died when the bus crashed through a barrier in a remote part of the region on Christmas Eve.

The third death from the accident brought the holiday road toll to 19.

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