Bus driver charged over crash that killed three, injured dozens

Talita Fifita, 33, was one of three victims in the bus crash near Gisborne on Christmas Eve.
SUPPLIED

Talita Fifita, 33, was one of three victims in the bus crash near Gisborne on Christmas Eve.

The driver of a bus that crashed on Christmas Eve near Gisborne has been charged over the three deaths and multiple injuries that occurred.

The 65-year-old man has been arrested and charged with three counts of careless driving causing death and 27 counts of careless driving causing injury.

He will appear in the Manukau District Court on April 26.

Teacher Leotisia Malakai, 55, died eight days after the crash.
SUPPLIED

Teacher Leotisia Malakai, 55, died eight days after the crash.

Police said 53 people were on the bus when it crashed on State Highway 2, about 30km south of Gisborne. It is believed the bus went through a barrier at Wharerata and crashed down a bank about 10.30pm on December 24.

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Sione Taumalolo, 11, and Talita Moimoi Fifita, 33, died at the scene. Leotisia Malakai, 55, died in hospital eight days later.

11-year-old Sione Taumalolo died in the crash.
SUPPLIED

11-year-old Sione Taumalolo died in the crash.

Those on board the bus were teachers and students from the Tongan Mailefihi Siulikutapu College brass band team on their way to Gisborne's Tongan Methodist Parish to perform on Christmas Day for a fundraising event.

Taumalolo's sister Jupitta Taumalolo-Smith said police had not told her the driver was being charged.

She did not wish to comment on the decision to prosecute but said her family had been "doing well" in the months since the tragedy.

In a statement, Tairawhiti area commander Sam Aberahama described the crash as an absolute tragedy for everyone involved and said police hoped that holding somebody accountable would begin to bring some closure to those affected.

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"I would like to acknowledge the investigation team who have worked on this over the past four months and the agencies who provided support to police and the victims at the time and throughout the inquiry," Aberahama said.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the families of those involved."

There was an outpouring of support after the crash with a Givealittle page raising more than $42,000 and a tribute concert put on by band members raising about $28,000.

 - Stuff

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