Kiwi was driver in fatal Kenya crash

Last updated 19:30 29/01/2013
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.

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An 18-year-old former Bethlehem College student was driving when four people were killed in a van crash in Kenya, it has been revealed.

Until today it had been reported Kenyan Christopher Mmata, who died in the crash, was the driver of the van in which four people died on January 15.

But at a press conference today at Bethlehem College, on the outskirts of Tauranga, reporters were told volunteer David Fellows, a former student from of college, was driving.

Tauranga doctor Brian Johnston, his wife Grace, and 19-year-old Caitlin Dickson were also killed.

Bethlehem College principal Eoin Crosbie said today he learned there had been a driver switch on Saturday, after the funerals of the Johnstons.

The families of those who died were told on Sunday, he said.

It was not known when the 18-year-old, who graduated from the college last year, and Mmata swapped.

The information would be forwarded to the Kenyan authorities through Interpol, a New Zealand police spokesperson said.

"New Zealand police will offer the Kenyan authorities any assistance which may be required for their investigation and we will await their further direction."

Bethlehem College had apologised to the families involved and said there should never have been a driver swap.

Fellows, who is not believed to have been badly injured in the crash, was in the first group of volunteers to arrive home.

He holds a full New Zealand drivers' licence.

Straight after the crash, a mission leader talked of the mayhem and confusion at the crash scene, warning that those involved had only hazy recollections as to what had happened.

On the mission Facebook page, Kerri Tilby-Price said she was in a second car and was first on the scene.

"There seems to be some confusing reports of what has happened, so I would like to make a couple of things very clear: some students have no memory of the accident at all, and some remember only parts."

A few students claim they have perfect memory of everything, but even their reports are in conflict with each other.

"Please accept any of their recollections as 'their version only' - the Kenyan Police Report is the only evidence based report we can rely on." (sic)

Crosbie told Fairfax Media that Fellows had immediately claimed responsibility at the scene, but had been told by Ominde not to say anything until his parents knew.

He was relieved the full story was now out and was having counselling.

The school's board of trustees has launched an inquiry.

Those involved in the fatal crash had praised Fellows for taking control at the scene.

Sam McDougall, 18, Luke Fisher, 17, and Fellows took control of matters after the crash, Joy Fisher told a press conference last week.

"They were so calm, they were our rocks," Fisher said. "They told us what to do and were able to get us through it."

Bethlehem College's liaison in Kenya Calvine Ominde had presumed Mmata was driving, due to where he was found at the scene.

Ominde had concentrated on the dying and injured, and information was released that named Mmata as the driver, Crosby said.

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The College was "very sad" Mmata was attributed as the driver.

Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been told.

- Stuff

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