Kenya crash group to return

By Ellen Irvine -
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Grace and Brian Johnston and Caitlin Dickson died in Kenya.
Grace and Brian Johnston and Caitlin Dickson died in Kenya.

A return trip to Kenya this summer is planned by some of the Bethlehem College party involved in January's Kenyan minivan crash that killed four people.

Bethlehem College principal Eoin Crosbie confirmed a group would travel privately to Kenya but said the trip was not associated with the school.

"The fact they are going to Kenya is for them to go there and probably bring some closure of things that have happened."

Former Bethlehem College student Caitlin Dickson, 19, school parents Brian and Grace Johnston, and Kenyan national Christopher Mmata were killed when a minivan rolled and crashed into a ditch on January 15 this year.

An investigation that was commissioned by the school confirmed Bethlehem College student David Fellows was driving the minivan after being encouraged to drive by Mr Mmata. This had been allowed by some tour group leaders. Kenyan police said the driver was Mr Mmata.

Mr Crosbie said the college has not yet planned a return visit to Kenya, but that the school hoped to return soon for another service trip.

He said the college has created an award and named a sports field in honour of the people who died in the crash, while a fund started by the school for the victims has raised more than $60,000.

Mr Crosbie told the Bay of Plenty Times it had been a difficult year for the school after the crash.

"We have used the opportunity of our academic prizegiving to [offer] some closure around the end of the year, as [the tragedy] started the year for us."

The family of Caitlin Dickson has worked with the school to create a service award in her memory.

The Caitlin Dickson Kenyan Memorial Award will be presented each year to a student who reflects Caitlin's qualities.

Mr Crosbie told the school prizegiving it represented service "above and beyond, service not necessarily in the limelight, service that might be a little outside the square".

"Because if you knew Caitlin, that is where she often operated."

Caitlin's parents presented the award to year 13 student Sarah Knapp, also injured in the crash.

"The Dicksons were there - that was nice, that's helped bring some closure," Mr Crosbie said.

Two other students who helped those injured in the immediate aftermath of the accident were also honoured with service awards.

The school has also named its rugby field Johnston's Sports Field in honour of Brian and Grace Johnston, who were foundation parents at the school.

"We have given it that name in memory of them. They were very keen on sport and did a lot for sport in the college."

More than $60,000 has been donated to fund the college started to help those affected by the tragedy.

People donating were given the option of giving to the Kenyan families affected ($35,077), the Johnston family ($21,430) and the Ark Quest Education Centre project ($5977).

The Bethlehem party was in Kenya working on the project when the tragedy occurred.

Mr Crosbie said a trust was managing funds for the Johnston family and would help support the couple's youngest two children in their schooling and tertiary education.

Money allocated towards helping the Kenyan families had paid for the funeral of Christopher Mmata, the official Kenyan driver of the trip killed in the crash.

It had also gone towards hospital expenses that were not covered by insurance, and setting up employment opportunities at the school.

"Most has gone to a project raising chickens, that's creating on-going employment for a family which has been left without an income because of Christopher's death."

Donations were received from around New Zealand and as far away as Britain, mainly through contacts of the Johnston family.

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