Bus accident tugs heart-strings and adds to increasing holiday road toll

EDITORIAL

The Christmas Eve accident that left two Tongan people dead and many others injured cast a heavy pall over a Gisborne district enjoying perfect weather conditions for Christmas. It is also part of what has already become a disastrous holiday period on New Zealand roads.

Young bandsman Sione Taumalolo (11) and supporter Talita Fifita (33) were among the 53 band members from their Tongan college who plunged down a 100 metre bank on the Whareratas.

Images of their grinning faces with Sione so proud of his white and blue band uniform and Talita’s broad smile could not help but touch the heart-strings.

Ten of the party remained in hospital this morning as the local Tongan community plus Cabinet ministers from the Tongan and New Zealand governments worked to support the survivors.

The wider community has given its support also, shown by a Give A Little campaign that had raised just over $30,000 by this morning, while Air New Zealand says it will fly the survivors to Auckland free.

The cause of the tragedy will require a painstaking investigation and it is far too early to speculate on what might have happened. But for travellers on the road south in the past few days the accident site was a grim reminder.

The road was due to be closed for several hours today for the difficult recovery operation.

The Wharerata accident was part of what looks like being another heavy holiday road toll. By this morning the toll for the holiday period, which extends from Friday, December 23 to Wednesday, January 4, had already reached 10 and was fast approaching the 2015/16 total of 12. The busy New Year period, when statistically more accidents occur, is still to come.

The national road toll stood at 283 at the start of the holiday season and is nearing last year’s figure of 319. New Zealand has generally done well in efforts to reduce the toll, particularly when it is related to the increased number of vehicles on the road, but the holiday period remains one of the greatest dangers.

The Christmas Eve accident that left two Tongan people dead and many others injured cast a heavy pall over a Gisborne district enjoying perfect weather conditions for Christmas. It is also part of what has already become a disastrous holiday period on New Zealand roads.

Young bandsman Sione Taumalolo (11) and supporter Talita Fifita (33) were among the 53 band members from their Tongan college who plunged down a 100 metre bank on the Whareratas.

Images of their grinning faces with Sione so proud of his white and blue band uniform and Talita’s broad smile could not help but touch the heart-strings.

Ten of the party remained in hospital this morning as the local Tongan community plus Cabinet ministers from the Tongan and New Zealand governments worked to support the survivors.

The wider community has given its support also, shown by a Give A Little campaign that had raised just over $30,000 by this morning, while Air New Zealand says it will fly the survivors to Auckland free.

The cause of the tragedy will require a painstaking investigation and it is far too early to speculate on what might have happened. But for travellers on the road south in the past few days the accident site was a grim reminder.

The road was due to be closed for several hours today for the difficult recovery operation.

The Wharerata accident was part of what looks like being another heavy holiday road toll. By this morning the toll for the holiday period, which extends from Friday, December 23 to Wednesday, January 4, had already reached 10 and was fast approaching the 2015/16 total of 12. The busy New Year period, when statistically more accidents occur, is still to come.

The national road toll stood at 283 at the start of the holiday season and is nearing last year’s figure of 319. New Zealand has generally done well in efforts to reduce the toll, particularly when it is related to the increased number of vehicles on the road, but the holiday period remains one of the greatest dangers.

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