Praise for students in Kenya tragedy

Last updated 08:08 24/01/2013

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A former Bethlehem College student involved in the fatal minivan crash in Kenya has praised the efforts of three fellow students in freeing people from the van.

Sam McDougall, 18, Luke Fisher, 17, and David Fellows, 19, took control of matters after the crash that killed three New Zealanders and the Kenyan driver, said Joy Fisher, 19.

Mr McDougall, who, like Ms Fisher was a year 13 student last year, had a shoulder in a sling from a "bung shoulder" but with the other two checked the injuries of the others in the van, putting them into recovery positions, and sorted out who needed to be taken to hospital.

"They were so calm, they were our rocks," Ms Fisher told a press conference at the college yesterday. "They told us what to do and were able to get us through it."

The college tour party was on a mission to build classrooms at Ma'hanga Village and Jan Dean, an English teacher on her 11th mission trip, was one of those rescued by Mr McDougall after she was trapped in the overturned vehicle.

Mrs Dean said the group had been to visit a local high school, where students were studying Witi Ihimaera's Whale Rider, when the accident happened about 1pm in light drizzle.

The van's door was above her head, but she could not lift herself out. The mission leader, Phil Russell, was the only other person left in the van at that stage. His face was covered in blood and he was conscious.

Mr McDougall asked her if she was OK and helped to pull her free.

Tauranga couple Brian and Grace Johnston and former Bethlehem College student Caitlin Dickson, 19, were killed in the crash. Their bodies have been returned to New Zealand.

Ten members of the mission are back home, but five remain in Kenya, four of them in hospital.

"It's no fun at all being here knowing they are there - we just want them back," said Mrs Dean, her left arm in a sling because of a broken collarbone.

Ms Fisher said those who were not injured "did the rounds", visiting those who were hurt at Aga Khan hospital in Kisumu.

The group was amazing, never once breaking down.

Some Kenyans cooked the group "massive feasts" while others, many of them strangers, stopped at the hospital to pray for the injured.

All the young people at the press conference said they could not wait to go back.

Principal Eoin Crosbie said almost $40,000 had been raised for family of the dead Kenyan, Christopher Mmata, the Johnston family, and the Ark Quest Education Centre in Mahanga. Fairfax NZ

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- Waikato

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