Family link death crash to poverty
Poverty is a contributing cause of a double fatality on the West Coast that left a Tongan mother of seven and her teenage son dead, according to their family.
Lavinia Manui Langi, 43, known as Manui, and her teenage son, Lesili, 15, drowned after the van she was driving careered off Taylorville Rd, a few kilometres from Greymouth, while in heavy rain about 11am on Monday and rolled down a bank into a creek.
Another son, Kavana, aged 3, clambered from the partially submerged wreck and was rescued from the water by passing motorists, who were unable to save his mother and brother.
Langi's other five children had been at home in Blaketown, under the care of the eldest, a 14-year-old daughter.
Family spokesman Taina Kinikini said yesterday the crash happened when Manui Langi was driving home from collecting scrap meat from a home-kill butcher because they had been struggling financially.
"Her husband is a really hard-working man but to take care of that many children is hard."
Any problems with the van's roadworthiness could also be blamed on the lack of money to cover maintenance, he said.
Kinikini moved from Tonga to the West Coast in 2002 to work in forestry and he encouraged Manui Langi's husband, Aho, to move there in 2004.
About seven years ago, Aho Langi shifted his wife and four children to Greymouth.
"They were looking for opportunities for better education and a better life for their children."
The couple's three youngest were born in New Zealand, including a 6-month-old son.
However, Aho Langi had remained on a working visa since he arrived in 2004 and had to pay several thousand dollars each year for its renewal, a crippling additional burden, Kinikini said.
"They would only extend it for a year each time. I don't know why."
He took a forestry job in Southland when work dried up with the forestry gang on the West Coast.
Since the tragedy, Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn had met the family and vowed to help Aho Langi to gain permanent residence.
He said yesterday he was concerned about the crash's links with poverty.
Kinikini said the family and Tongan community were devastated and struggling to comprehend the tragedy, particularly only days before Christmas, but were grateful for community support.
"Aho is very emotional. The three younger ones still don't know what is going on but the three older children are crying so much."
Autopsy results showed Manui and her son had drowned, he said.
A funeral will be held at the Greymouth High School hall at 2pm today before a burial service next Monday at Manukau Memorial Gardens in Auckland.
The family planned to stay with relatives in Auckland for a few weeks before returning to the West Coast.
- © Fairfax NZ News