'Dont worry about me' - Kenya crash victim

TONY WALL
Last updated 08:56 17/01/2013
The group from Tauranga's Bethlehem College who travelled to Kenya. Caitlin Dickson (front, centre) and Dr Brian and Grace Johnston (back row, centre) were killed in a minivan crash.
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The group from Tauranga's Bethlehem College who travelled to Kenya. Caitlin Dickson (front, centre) and Dr Brian and Grace Johnston (back row, centre) were killed in a minivan crash.

FORMER STUDENT: Caitlin Dickson, 19, was in Kenya with a group from Bethlehem College when she was killed.
FORMER STUDENT: Caitlin Dickson, 19, was in Kenya with a group from Bethlehem College when she was killed in a minivan crash.
'TWO WONDERFUL PEOPLE': Dr Brian and Grace Johnston, two of three people from a Bethlehem College group killed in a minivan crash in Kenya.
'TWO WONDERFUL PEOPLE': Dr Brian and Grace Johnston, two of three people from a Bethlehem College group killed in a minivan crash in Kenya.

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As she lay dying in the wreck of a minivan on a rain-swept highway in Kenya, former Bethlehem College student Caitlin Dickson told rescuers not to worry about her, but to tend to the other victims.

''It's just the kind of person she was,'' her best friend, Lydia Hollister-Jones said today.

Hollister-Jones was speaking at a press conference organised at the college this morning.

Principal Eoin Crosbie told assembled media that immediately after the crash, Caitlin had a ''mangled'' leg but thought she was okay.

''Her words were, 'I'm okay, go and tend to the other people'. She wasn't okay.''

Crosbie said the cause of death was unknown, but she died at the scene, as did the driver, Christopher Mmata.

Parent Grace Johnston died on the way to hospital, and her husband Brian, an anaesthetist at Tauranga Hospital, died after surgery.

Crosbie said about three students and three staff remained in the Aga Khan hospital with varying injuries.

One female student had a dislocated hip and fractured pelvis, while another had serious bruising and remained in intensive care.

The bodies of the deceased had been taken by a funeral director to Nairobi and would be returned to New Zealand ''fairly quickly''.

The students, parents and teachers who remained would likely return to New Zealand in separate groups, the timetable depending on their injuries.

The associate principal, Stuart Manners, was on his way to Kenya to help with arrangements.

Hollister-Jones, who has also visited the village in Kenya that the group was helping, said Caitlin was an amazing young woman who was committed to helping others.

She had shaved her head for cancer, organised sports nights for underprivileged kids in Tauranga, and held sausage sizzles to fundraise for the Kenyan village.

''She might be gone, but she died doing something she was committed to. She literally changed that village, changed the lives of 10,000-plus people.''

Crosbie also paid tribute to her.

''Caitlin was what we call a live wire. She had a twinkle in her eye; she was different and wasn't afraid to express her differences.''

She was due to start at Victoria University in Wellington this year, studying art and law.

Parents of students on the trip also spoke.

Jennifer Boggiss, whose daughter Anna was travelling in a car behind the van, said it was ''every parent's worst nightmare'' being so far away from her child, but she was drawing strength from the school and other parents.

She said her daughter and the other students sounded ''incredibly strong'' during phone conversations.

Sheila Tippett's daughter Laura was in the van when it rolled, sitting on the end of one of the rows. She doubted there were seatbelts in the van.

Laura was badly battered and bruised and in a lot of pain in a hospital ward, but was otherwise okay. She didn't remember much of the smash, as she lost consciousness.

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Crosbie said some of the injured had not been told there had been fatalities, so they could focus on recovering.

He said the school always did a risk analysis for overseas trips.

''There are risks that are very hard to mitigate overseas, we will certainly be reviewing these, but I would hate to think that it becomes a barrier for the whole strategy we have for this service.

"I guess with great benefits comes greater risks sometimes. It could have happened in New Zealand.''

Hollister-Jones said Caitlin would want the mission to continue.

''If it stopped because of what happened, she would probably be sad.''

Work carried out by the Bethlehem College entourage included building classrooms, and also a well, a project that cost around $150,000.

- Stuff

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