New hope for funerals next week

By John Cousins


Funeral services for the three Tauranga people killed in Kenya this week could take place next Thursday and Friday following a big effort to fast-track bringing the bodies home.

Hopes were high that the bodies of Brian and Grace Johnston and Caitlin Dickson would leave Nairobi this weekend and arrive in New Zealand early next week.

The effort by authorities to cut through the red tape and repatriate the bodies followed concerns that it could take up to 10 days to return the bodies to loved ones.

It meant the two funeral services in the 1300-capacity Bethlehem College gym would be held before the three-day Auckland Anniversary Weekend. The weekend includes one of the festival highlights of the year for young Christians, the Parachute Festival.

Pastor Craig Vernall, of the Bethlehem Baptist Church, said authorities were pretty confident that the bodies will be flown out of Nairobi this weekend.

"It is the best we can hope for."

Pastor Vernall was concerned that delaying the funeral services made it more difficult on families of the deceased because the process of grieving was more protracted.

The Johnstons and Caitlin died when the mini-van they were in rolled and crashed into a ditch early afternoon on Wednesday, Kenya time.

The driver of the minibus and inspirational figure in the college project to build the Ark Quest Education Centre, Nairobi lecturer Christopher Mmata was also killed. The college has set up three bank accounts for people to support others through the tragedy including one for the Africans killed and injured in the accident. Details are on the college website.

College principal Eoin Crosbie said the bodies were ready to go from Nairobi now and it was just a matter of getting the clearances and the capacity on the planes from the Kenyan government.

The 12 students and staff who were hospitalised or received medical treatment had been medivacced to Nairobi Hospital, with injuries ranging from bruises to broken bones.

Mr Crosbie said House of Travel representatives had arrived in Nairobi and plans were being prepared to clear as many of the injured as possible so they could join the four uninjured members of the college group for the first flight home.

It was hoped that the first group would fly out this weekend and arrive home as early as Monday.

Legacy Funerals operations manager Don Hoult said everyone had been impressed with the way the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had handled the situation.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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