Christmas crash driver of bus charged

Man will appear in Manukau District Court next Wednesday.

Man will appear in Manukau District Court next Wednesday.

SCENE OF A TRAGEDY: The driver of the Ritchies bus that plunged off SH2 in the Whareratas and crashed on Christmas Eve last year has been charged with three counts of careless driving causing death, and more than two dozen counts of careless driving causing injury. Police arrested him in Auckland on Wednesday night. File pictures
A Ritchies bus carrying a Tongan school brass band crashed down a bank on State Highway 2 between Wairoa and Gisborne on Christmas Eve. Photo supplied

THE driver of the Auckland bus that crashed in the Whareratas on Christmas Eve, where three people died and many others were injured, has been charged by police after a lengthy inquiry.

The driver, aged 65, has been charged with three counts of careless driving causing death.

He also faces 27 counts of careless driving causing injury.

The arrested man will appear in Manukau District Court next Wednesday, April 26.

There were 52 people on board when the bus left SH2 and plunged over a protective railing and down a bank.

They were members and supporters of a brass band from Vava’u’s Mailefihi Siu’ilikutapu College in Tonga and were heading to Gisborne’s Wesley Methodist Church to perform on Christmas Day.

The driver of the Auckland-based Ritchies vehicle was arrested and charged in Auckland on Wednesday night.

The tragedy took the lives of 55-year-old Leotisia Malakai, 11-year-old Sione Taumololo and 33-year-old Talita Fifita.

More than 40 other people sustained a wide range of injuries in the crash and a number of them were hospitalised for weeks afterwards.

“The crash was an absolute tragedy for everyone involved and we hope that holding somebody accountable might begin to bring some closure to those affected,” said Tairawhiti area police commander Inspector Sam Aberahama.

“I would like to acknowledge the investigation team who have worked on this over the past four months.

“I would also like to acknowledge the agencies who provided support to police and to the victims of the crash at the time and throughout the inquiry.”

Inspector Aberahama said the thoughts of police and the Gisborne community as a whole continue to be with the families of those involved.

“As the matter is now before the court, we are unable to comment further at this stage.”

THE driver of the Auckland bus that crashed in the Whareratas on Christmas Eve, where three people died and many others were injured, has been charged by police after a lengthy inquiry.

The driver, aged 65, has been charged with three counts of careless driving causing death.

He also faces 27 counts of careless driving causing injury.

The arrested man will appear in Manukau District Court next Wednesday, April 26.

There were 52 people on board when the bus left SH2 and plunged over a protective railing and down a bank.

They were members and supporters of a brass band from Vava’u’s Mailefihi Siu’ilikutapu College in Tonga and were heading to Gisborne’s Wesley Methodist Church to perform on Christmas Day.

The driver of the Auckland-based Ritchies vehicle was arrested and charged in Auckland on Wednesday night.

The tragedy took the lives of 55-year-old Leotisia Malakai, 11-year-old Sione Taumololo and 33-year-old Talita Fifita.

More than 40 other people sustained a wide range of injuries in the crash and a number of them were hospitalised for weeks afterwards.

“The crash was an absolute tragedy for everyone involved and we hope that holding somebody accountable might begin to bring some closure to those affected,” said Tairawhiti area police commander Inspector Sam Aberahama.

“I would like to acknowledge the investigation team who have worked on this over the past four months.

“I would also like to acknowledge the agencies who provided support to police and to the victims of the crash at the time and throughout the inquiry.”

Inspector Aberahama said the thoughts of police and the Gisborne community as a whole continue to be with the families of those involved.

“As the matter is now before the court, we are unable to comment further at this stage.”

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