30 Jan 2013

NZ waiting to hear from Kenya authorities

10:37 pm on 30 January 2013

The Government says it is up to African authorities to decide what they want to do about a New Zealand man who has admitted driving a minivan that crashed in Kenya, killing four people.

Bethlehem College has hired a private investigator to find out why an 18-year-old former pupil was driving the vehicle which crashed on 15 January this year and why that was kept secret until now.

Three New Zealanders working on the Tauranga-based school's missionary programme died when the minivan rolled into a ditch, as well as Kenyan Christopher Mmata. The group of 19 volunteers were travelling from the port city of Kisumu to the small village of Mahanga.

For the past fortnight, the Christian college has said that Mr Mmata had been driving. But on Tuesday, principal Eoin Crosbie revealed that David Fellows, who graduated from the college last year and holds a full New Zealand driver's licence, was behind the wheel.

Mr Fellows has since returned to New Zealand without informing Kenyan authorities that he was the driver.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said on Wednesday that is up to the Kenyan authorities to determine what steps they want to take in talking to New Zealanders involved in the crash.

Mr McCully said New Zealand does not have an extradition treaty with Kenya, but there are special Commonwealth arrangements in these circumstances.

"It's a matter for the Kenyan authorities to determine what steps they want to take. Clearly after the accident, there was a picture of some confusion and some people left the country that they may wish to ask them questions of.

"There's a proper process for that to be dealt with and, because we're dealing with Commonwealth countries, those arrangements are well understood."

Kenya man 'offended' by cover-up accusation

A Kenyan team leader for the mission workers says he is offended by the accusation that he covered up the fact one of the New Zealanders was driving.

Calvine Orminde denies telling David Fellows to keep that he was the one driving secret until he got back to New Zealand.

Mr Orminde said when the group set out just before the crash he was driving a car ahead of the minivan driven by his friend Christopher Mmata.

He told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Wednesday when he got to the crash scene, Mr Mmata was lying next to the driver's door.

Mr Orminde said the last person he saw driving was Mr Mmata, and when he asked the team members all they could remember was that the same man was driving.

Mr Orminde said later when David Fellows told him the crash was his fault, he did not understand what he meant but told him to talk to his parents in New Zealand and get counselling.

The Kenyan only recently heard from Bethlehem College to confirm that Mr Fellows had indeed been driving, and said he immediately called police.

Driver swap to be investigated

Bethlehem College admits there was an initial cover-up of the identity of the minivan's driver.

Principal Eoin Crosbie told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday the college is acting in an open and honest manner and has hired a private investigator to find out who knew what happened.

"There certainly appears to have been an initial cover-up but there was never an intention, I believe, for a long term cover-up because David was told to tell his family and to tell the school."

Mr Crosbie said it appears the school's liaison representative in Kenya did not initially believe that Mr Fellows was driving.

The chairman of the board of trustees, Greg Hollister-Jones, said an investigator will try to find out why the teenager was driving and who decided to allow Mr Mmata to be blamed for the accident.

"We are a community that puts truth at the centre and we need to know the truth, so that's the first focus. The second focus is what learnings the school can make, because it wants to continue these overseas trips. The truth is what matters most."