Loved ones gather to pray

Caitlin Dickson was described by a friend on Facebook as a woman of amazing faith and love. Photo / Supplied
Caitlin Dickson was described by a friend on Facebook as a woman of amazing faith and love. Photo / Supplied

Friends and family of the three New Zealanders killed in a road accident in Kenya days before their return home will gather today to remember them.

The van carrying Tauranga's Bethlehem College Christian volunteers Grace and Dr Brian Johnston, and Caitlin Dickson rolled in heavy rain and ended up in a ditch on Tuesday night (NZ time).

Their Kenyan driver was also killed.

The trio were part of a group of seven adults and 12 students who had been building classrooms in the village of Ma'hanga since last month.

This morning friends of Miss Dickson, 19, former and current students will gather at Bethlehem College to pray.

A prayer service will be held tonight for Mr and Mrs Johnston.

The Johnstons leave behind 10 children aged from 14 to their early 30s. Brian Johnston was a long-serving anaesthetist with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

The couple attended Greerton Bible Church for more than 20 years, and their pastor John Elen said many of their congregation are numb from shock, Radio New Zealand reported.

"They had a real passion for serving the God they loved and the people which were entrusted to them. They were involved in so many things and that's why such a wide portion of the community actually know who they are,'' he told Radio New Zealand.

Bethlehem College principal Eoin Crosbie met last night met with parents, relatives and friends of the group.

About seven of the group in Kenya remained in hospital in Kisumu with injuries ranging from superficial to more serious, but none were life threatening, he told Radio New Zealand. A number of Kenyans were also hurt in the crash.

The three deaths were a devastating blow to the tight-knit Bay of Plenty community, he said.

"Brian and Grace were really well known and very committed to the Bethlehem College community ... and Caitlin was very committed to this work."

Similar trips are planned to Tonga and the Solomon Islands later this year.

The school would look at management of risk in other countries, but was committed to continuing the volunteer trips, Mr Crosbie said.

"The value of these trips is just immense and it's life-changing."

New Zealand's deputy high commissioner and consular staff are travelling to Kenya today to provide support and arrangements are being made to bring the group home.

- with Bay of Plenty Times

- APNZ

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