The trio from Tauranga's Bethlehem College, who died in a minivan crash in Kenya were couple Dr Brian and Grace Johnston, and 19-year-old Caitlin Dickson.
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Dr Johnston was an anaesthetist at Tauranga Hospital, and the couple left behind a family of 10 children.
Dickson was a past student of the school.
Bethlehem College principal Eoin Crosbie said Brian was a "well-known identity" in Tauranga.
"He and Grace have a large family of 10 children, all of whom went through Bethlehem College, with only a boy and a girl remaining at this school.
"They'll be very sadly missed these two wonderful people. They were one of the strongest families, in terms of their association with the school that I know of, " Crosbie said.
"They were committed to the life of the college.
Grace Johnston was on the trust for the school's Christian Organisation.
The trio were among a party of 19 that left New Zealand for Kenya on December 28 and included 12 students and seven adults.
The trip was the school's third to the Ark Quest Education Centre, in Ma'hanga Village in the Vihiga District of the Western Province, with the aim of improving the centre's facilities.
He said the group were travelling back to their village in heavy rain when the tragedy occurred about 11pm Monday night (New Zealand time).
"The minivan lost control, rolled and ran into a ditch.
"The driver, a Kenyan named Christopher who worked for the Ark Quest Academy, was killed, and the fatalities from the Bethlehem College party were all adult participants."
Crosbie said the deaths would "touch the lives of many".
"...As these were all wonderful people who served others first as part of their expression of their Christian faith.
"Caitlin, Grace and Brian have all been to this village before and were passionate about the ministry that was being offered."
Crosbie said the roads in that part of Kenya were "notorious and terrible", and several other people were injured including two teachers and the team's leader, Phil Russell, who suffered concussion and cuts.
He said others had received broken bones.
The group was now said to be together in a private hospital in Kisumu.
Arrangements were being made to bring all of them home as quickly as possible.
Crosbie said he and others from the school had visited the families this morning, of those who died.
"They wish to grieve in private and do not want contact from the media," he said.
All families had been contacted and the school was providing support.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said they were aware of a motor vehicle accident in Kenya involving students from Bethlehem College but would not give further details.
MFAT said the New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria was providing consular assistance and support to the group.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief executive Phil Cammish paid tribute to Johnston and his wife, Grace.
"Today is the anniversary of Brian starting his career with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, where he has been a dedicated member of staff for the last 26 years at both Tauranga and Whakatane sites.
"Five years ago, and seeing a need for providing stability at Whakatane, Brian volunteered to take the Anaesthetists position and travelled from his home in Tauranga weekly to be an active and respected member of the Whakatane Hospital community.
"Brian was a dedicated Christian who is described by his colleagues as "the nicest person you would ever meet" and someone who "would only ever give, never take.
"Brian and Grace have also been described as "being woven into the fabric of the Bay of Plenty" and will be sorely missed. They leave behind a large family and a number of grandchildren."