Trees may honour bus crash victims

By John Cousins

A grove of trees could be planted at Bethlehem College as a memorial to the people who perished in the bus crash in Kenya last week.

The offer of the trees has been made to the college by Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby on behalf of the city's residents.

It would become a permanent memorial to the four people who died when a minibus rolled into a ditch on a rain-swept road in western Kenya.

Three of the dead, Brian and Grace Johnston and Caitlin Dickson, were part of the group of 19 people from Tauranga who were in western Kenya helping to build another classroom block at the Ark Quest Education Centre in Mahanga, a village of 10,000 people.

The fourth victim was the driver of the minibus, Christopher Mmata, whom the college regarded as an inspirational figure in the project to establish the school.

Mr Crosby has also offered the college any support it may need. He did not expect that the college would make a decision straight away on the offer of the trees to commemorate those who lost their lives.

Bethlehem College principal Eoin Crosbie said it was a lovely idea, although he was unsure of the protocols around establishing a memorial grove of trees. It was a question for the Christian Education Trust which owned the land that the college sat on, he said.

The mayor would also be talking informally to councillors about making a contribution to the three bank accounts set up by Bethlehem College in the wake of the deaths.

The accounts are for people who wish to support others through the tragedy, including donations to the large family left behind by the deaths of Brian Johnston and his wife, Grace. The Johnston donations would provide long-term support and be administered by the college. The family preferred this support rather than flowers. The Johnston family account number is 02 0466 0057025 01.

Another account tagged "Kenya Donations", account number 02 0466 0057025 02, is for the two families in Kenya affected by the crash. One is for those left behind by the death of Mr Mmata and the other for injured bus passenger and project volunteer Peter, who had no insurance or money for his continued hospital care.

People wishing to donate to the college's Ark Quest Education Centre can donate through account number 02 0466 0057025 024. It will support the work that Brian, Grace and Caitlin were devoted to.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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