Pirate flag half mast for boy killed by bus

By Matthew Theunissen, Keira Stephenson

Police had finished examining the scene and the bus, and completed a preliminary interview with the driver. Photo / Keira Stephenson
Police had finished examining the scene and the bus, and completed a preliminary interview with the driver. Photo / Keira Stephenson

The West Coast school of a five-year-old boy killed by a bus has flown a pirate flag at half mast "in honour of the boy who loved dressing up as a pirate".

Mahuri Bettjeman-Manawatu had just got off the bus in Hector when he was hit on his way home on Tuesday.

Several children, including his two brothers, witnessed the fatal accident.

Several were today being interviewed by police.

Granity School principal Megan Rich said school staff and students were displaying amazing courage and gathering together to cope with the tragedy.

The school has been overwhelmed by messages of support, gifts and visits.

Children were today writing cards and poems to send to Mahuri's whanau, she said.

The incident was every parent's worst nightmare.

Police communications manager Barbara Dunn said police had now completed their investigations and would today conduct video interviews with at least four children who might have witnessed the accident.

Eleven children got off the bus at the stop where Mahuri was killed, she said.

Police had finished examining the scene and the bus, and completed a preliminary interview with the driver.

The driver stopped and gave assistance at the accident and had been helpful with the investigation.

Westport police Detective Mal Haughey said yesterday's focus had been on providing support to traumatised children, the bus driver and Mahuri's family.

A crisis response team from the Ministry of Education had been supporting Granity School and would assist in interviewing the children.

Mr Haughey believed the pupils were coping well under the circumstances.

The bus driver was also being offered support.

James Coleman, 19, said he was still in shock having seen the bus hit Mahuri, who he had known all his life.

"Because my brothers get off the school bus I was watching them out the window. I heard one of the kids yell 'look out for the bus' and (Mahuri's) brother tried to stop him but he didn't get to him in time."

Mr Coleman brought Mahuri's brothers and some other children inside, made them cold drinks and put cartoons on.

"His brothers were pretty scared. They were just crying and worried about him, they wanted us to go and help him."

Mahuri's distraught mother arrived shortly afterwards.

Mr Coleman said Mahuri was a cool kid.

"They used to go down the creek, him and his brothers, and catch eels and that sort of thing. I went round there a couple of times. He was just a happy little kid. He'd make me coffees and stuff."

Mahuri's funeral is expected to take place in Kaikoura later this week.

- APNZ and Westport News

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