Returning home was an emotional journey for the Turakina Maori Girls' College kapa haka group as they passed the spot where their bus had crashed a week earlier.
Principal Terehia Channings said the girls were anxious about travelling back to Rangitikei yesterday but kept themselves distracted by singing.
Teachers and students wiped away tears during a powhiri at the school to welcome home the students and staff.
"Everybody's just pleased to see the girls back and see them home safe," Channings said.
It was only on Sunday that the bus they were travelling in to Gisborne left the road and crashed into a ditch in the Wharerata Range. They were headed to the secondary schools' national kapa haka competition.
Twelve students and three adults, including the 54-year-old bus driver, were taken to Gisborne Hospital with minor to moderate injuries.
Despite a few bumps and bruises, the girls took the stage - even the 14-year-old student who broke her leg appeared for the group's final performance.
"They were beautiful on the day," Channings said. "They were certainly the crowd favourite. We were very proud of them."
Student Tearihi Leaf said even though they didn't make it to the finals, everyone was proud of the girls.
"I think they were really strong and had heaps of courage."
The girls' performance, which was shown on Maori television, brought tears to the teachers' eyes as they watched in the staffroom, teacher Allan Allot said. The cause of the crash was still unknown, he said.
Senior Sergeant Dan Foley, of the Eastern District command centre, said there was a possibility the brakes had failed.
The week-long kapa haka festival finished yesterday.
It was held at Te Poho o te Rawiri Marae in Gisborne, with about 40 school groups competing for the national title.
- Manawatu Standard
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