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Kenya deaths won't stop school trips: Principal

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.

'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.
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.

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The principal of Tauranga's Bethlehem College says the tragic deaths of three people from a school party in Kenya won't stop the college organising overseas trips.

Brian and Grace Johnston, aged in their 50s, and Caitlin Dickson, 19, were killed yesterday (11pm Tuesday local time) when their minivan rolled into a ditch. The Kenyan van driver was also killed.

The trio were part of a group of 19 - 12 students and seven adults - from Tauranga's Bethlehem College, who were building classrooms to help Kenyan children receive an education.

Others in the group, including two teachers, were injured in the crash.

Principal Eoin Crosbie told Radio New Zealand this morning he would continue to arrange challenging overseas trips, and keep looking to manage risk as far as possible.

"It's very difficult to do that, except for to know what conditions are and to try and meet those conditions as best you can," Crosbie said.

The value of the trips was just immense and life-changing, he told Radio New Zealand.

"The whole purpose of this area of the curriculum is to challenge young people about the way they live their lives and to help them find God's purposes in their lives, and that's an immensely important thing for us to do."

Crosbie said seven members of the group were still in hospital, and were sticking together to support each other.

"Some of the injuries are fairly superficial, but others are slightly more serious – broken bones, and a lot of bruising," he said.

"My understanding is none of the injuries are of a life-threatening nature, and we praise God for that."

He said a travel agent and a staff member from the school had left for Kenya to give some leadership to the group.

Some of the students would be able to keep their original plans to fly home, and until then the families involved were meeting daily to pray, get updates on the situation, and support each other, he said.

The Johnstons were well-known in Tauranga and were devoted Christians who dedicated their lives to helping the impoverished children of the African country, Crosbie told Radio New Zealand.

He said Dickson also worked tirelessly when she was at home to raise money for the region in Kenya.

"[Dr Johnston] 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," he said.

"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. They were committed to the life of the college."

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