31 Dec 2016

Bus crash victims' bodies flown home

10:28 pm on 31 December 2016

The bodies of the two people killed in the Gisborne bus crash a week ago have arrived in Tonga and will be held at a church in the capital for two days of mourning.

Sione Taumalolo, 11 died along with Talita Fifita, 33 in the bus crash near Gisborne on Christmas Eve.

Sione Taumololo, 11, and Talita Fifita, 33, were killed in the crash at Wharerata, about 30km south of Gisborne. Photo: Supplied

Talita Fifita, 33, and Sione Taumololo, 11, died when their bus crashed through a barrier in a remote part of the region on Christmas Eve.

The bus was full of students and band members on a fund-raising trip from Mailefihi Siu'ilikutapu College on Vava'u.

One of the organisers of the trip, Mele Suipi Fakatava-Latu, said the two bodies would be taken to the church centre, Dr Moulton Centre, in Nuku'alofa, where prayers and services would be held to remember them.

Queen Nanasipau'u as well as chiefs and members of the education department of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga were expected to pay their respects, she said.

"They will all be there to be with them and continue to fulfil the Tongan obligations to the bodies and the family."

Mrs Fakatava-Latu said two members of the group, who were related to the deceased, had gone back to Tonga for the funerals. The rest would return home on 10 January.

The bus was carrying 53 people when it plunged down a steep bank on State Highway 2 at Wharerata, about 30km south of Gisborne, on 24 December.

Twenty-nine people were taken to hospital after the crash.

The group had been heading to Gisborne's Wesleyan Methodist Church for a performance.

A Givealittle page set up to support the survivors has raised over $41,000.

Hundreds attended a memorial service in Auckland on Tuesday for Sione and Ms Fifita.

The school group's brass band played for the first time since the crash on Wednesday.

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