For survivors, grief will come later

By Jamie Morton, Natalie Akoorie, APNZ

The children of (from left) Tim Fellows, Sheila Tippett and Jennifer Boggiss all survived the crash.
The children of (from left) Tim Fellows, Sheila Tippett and Jennifer Boggiss all survived the crash.

Survivors of a Kenyan bus crash lay in hospital unaware their friends were dead as a college community yesterday united to grieve for four people killed.

Six students from Bethlehem College, Tauranga, were in Aga Khan hospital in Kisumu last night after the crash near the village of Ma'hanga.

Brian and Grace Johnston, 19-year-old former student Caitlin Dickson and driver Christopher Mmata died.

College principal Eoin Crosbie yesterday said some of those injured had not been told of the deaths.

"The logic behind that is to help them focus on their injuries without having to deal with grief at the same time," he said.

This was a "very temporary situation ... and we'll deal with that as and when it's appropriate".

The most seriously injured was student Aneka Jones, who suffered a dislocated hip and fractured pelvis, and is not expected to travel home for some time.

Another female pupil remained in the intensive care unit with serious bruising.

Others who escaped the crash with lesser injuries were staying in a hotel near the hospital and were expected to fly home in the first of two groups.

The 12 students and seven adults had been serving with a mission partnership programme with Kenya's Ark Quest School in Ma'hanga and were due to fly out tomorrow.
It was not known what caused a mini-van carrying 16 group members to lose control and roll into a ditch on Kenya's Nairobi-Murang'a highway at 11pm on Tuesday.

As she lay with a severely injured leg, Caitlin was said to have told people going to her aid to help others first, despite being badly injured.

"Her words were, 'I'm okay, go and tend to the other people' ... she wasn't okay," Mr Crosbie said.

He was moved to hear that members of Ma'hanga village, where the group were volunteering, had visited the hospital and held a ceremony around the bodies of the three Kiwis.

"They gathered around the bodies and they sang and danced and prayed and did what they do in Africa so well ... it was just a great blessing to have the villagers come and farewell those three people that way."

Sheila Tippett said her daughter Laura, who was not injured, remembered being on the end of a row of seats before the mini-van rolled off the road into a ditch. A suggestion the driver had swerved to avoid another car was unfounded. "We spoke to our daughter late last night and it was just so good to hear her voice. She seemed very quiet and a little bit subdued."

The 15-year-old lost consciousness after the crash and didn't remember much more of it, Mrs Tippett said.

Another parent, Jennifer Boggiss, spoke of the relief at finding out her daughter Anna, 16, survived.

She had been following the mini-van in a car driven by Kenyan physics lecturer Calvine Ominde, who started the village school.

The college has started a fund to support the family of Christopher Mmata. People are invited to make donations to the Bank of New Zealand account titled Kenya Donations, with the number 02-0466-0057025-02.

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- NZ Herald

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