Family and friends mourn three killed in Desert Rd crash

By Belinda Feek, Vaimoana Tapaleao

Arshpreet Kaur Sidhu, Twinkle Ansal and Monalisa Alofaifo died in a car crash.
Arshpreet Kaur Sidhu, Twinkle Ansal and Monalisa Alofaifo died in a car crash.

One of the victims of the horror crash on the Desert Rd had missed a flight to Auckland and had been catching a ride with friends when the accident happened.

Arshpreet Kaur Sidhu was the last of three victims to be named officially by police yesterday.

The 23-year-old Indian national had been in New Zealand on a working visa.

She was sitting in the back seat with Monalisa Alofaifo, 20, when the car they were in lost control as it approached a 65km/h bend on State Highway 1 at Rangipo, on the Central Plateau, and spun before colliding into a southbound truck.

Three people were killed in the crash on the Desert Rd. Photo / Andrew Warner
Three people were killed in the crash on the Desert Rd. Photo / Andrew Warner

A third passenger, Twinkle Ansal, was also killed. The 21-year-old Indian national was on a student visa and had been sitting in the front passenger seat.

The 21-year-old driver and Alofaifo's boyfriend, Ajay Rana Rajput, also an Indian national, remains in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital.

Last night, Sidhu's close friend, Joban Sidhu, told of the devastation she had faced after being told of the tragedy.

Although they shared the same surname, the pair were not related, but had become firm friends after meeting just over a year ago.

"She always used to call me her elder sister.

"I told her one day: 'I never had a sister. I wish I could have one.' And she was like: 'Oh, okay, so I'm your sister from now'.

"It's just been very hard. She's such a bubbly person."

The friends lived in Auckland, where Arshpreet studied information technology.

Joban revealed that her friend had travelled to Christchurch last Monday for a job interview. She was due back in Auckland on Wednesday, via Wellington, but had missed her connecting flight.

"She thought she had an hour, so she went to see some friends. She couldn't make it back on time, so she missed her flight from Wellington to Auckland.

"She decided to stay the night with a friend and then they're like: 'Yeah, stay for a couple of days and we'll drop you back'. She decided to come back with them."

 Ajay Rana Rajput remains in a critical condition. Photo / Facebook
Ajay Rana Rajput remains in a critical condition. Photo / Facebook

Arshpreet, whose mother died when she was a child, had promised her father and grandparents in India a trip to New Zealand when she got a job.

"She'd told her dad just before she died that she was hoping she would get the job and that with her first pay, she would pay for their visa to come and visit her.

"Just before she died she posted on Facebook: 'I want to go to India'. Now she'll be going back in a box."

Grieving friends have also paid tribute to Ansal, who was described as an intelligent, caring and fun-loving guy.

"He was a hardworking young man and he's also a type of person that anyone would [want] to be friends with because he knows how to joke around and keep you company."
She said he loved to socialise with friends and was always up for spending time with them.

The family of Alofaifo have also revealed harrowing details after the crash.
Her sister, Cathy Alofaifo, told the Herald she had lost not only her eldest sister, but her best friend.

Cathy said the day before the crash, she had text Monalisa, also known as Lisa, to see if she was free to hang out. But she let her know she had plans and had work later.
After not hearing from Lisa on Monday, Cathy and her parents were on their way out at around 8pm, when they received a phone call.

"My parents and I were just about to head out for dinner. But then her cell phone started ringing and it was her boss. She talked for about three minutes and then suddenly burst in tears.

"We just picked her up. My dad kept asking what was wrong and pleaded for an answer. But the only two words I recall her saying were: 'Daughter. Desert Rd'. I just saw the pain in my dad's face as he had a fair clue to what might have happened, because he watched the news earlier on'."

Cathy described her sister as being a selfless and determined young woman, who was considered the backbone of the family, working hard to achieve "so much" for her parents and siblings.

Alofaifo had been studying at Victoria University at the time of her death, aiming to become a teacher. She also had a passion for culture and had wanted to help those with a similar background to hers.

"No words can truly describe the heartache and grievance we're going through right now. It still feels surreal.

"We definitely have lost a big piece of the family and will never manage to fill again. We
mourn her loss, but believe that God only takes the very best."

Cathy said she would miss her sister's company and all the times they shared.

"We promised to conquer so much together and I guess I'll have to make her proud by doing it for the both of us."

A funeral service for Alofaifo will be held next Tuesday.

- NZ Herald

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