6 Oct 2017

Guilty plea over fatal Christmas Eve bus crash

10:15 am on 6 October 2017

The driver of a bus that crashed last Christmas Eve, killing three people, has pleaded guilty to three charges of driving causing death.

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

Luggage from the bus crash is strewn down a bank. Photo: Facebook / Tonganow

Talakai Aholelei, 65, also pleaded guilty to 27 cases of careless driving causing injury when he appeared in the Auckland District Court this morning.

There were 53 people on the bus when it plunged down a steep bank south of Gisborne last year.

The charter bus, operated by Ritchies, was carrying a school brass band that was on a four-week fundraising tour from Tonga.

11 year-old Sione Taumololo and 33 year-old Talita Fifita were killed instantly, while Leotisia Malakai, 55, died eight days later in Waikato Hospital.

Several people were hospitalised, including an 18-year-old who lost both of his legs.

Talakai Aholelei will take part in restorative justice with some victims before he is sentenced in January.