Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Tongan coolstore workers' bodies flown home today

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Coolstore managing director Allan Dawson. File/Photo
Coolstore managing director Allan Dawson. File/Photo

The bodies of four Aongatete coolstore workers killed in a car crash this month will be flown back to Tonga today after a moving memorial service in Katikati.

Sitiveni Vaipulu, 44, his son Koli Vaipulu, 21, Sione Teulaka, 21, and Teulaka's 28-year-old brother-in-law Samuela Taukatelata, had just left work when their car collided with a southbound logging truck on August 2.

Also killed in the crash was their 28-year-old colleague Halani Fine, 28, whose funeral was held in Auckland yesterday.

Read more: Five 'fine young men' killed in horror crash near Tauranga named
Heartbroken loved ones mourn five killed in horror Katikati smash

Their coolstore manager and colleague Clive Exelby said the bodies of Sitiveni Vaipulu, his son Koli, Teulaka and his brother-in-law were due to be flown back to Tonga at 6.45am today.

Exelby said Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva would meet the plane when it arrived in Tonga.

A group of about 20 people from Tauranga, including eight coolstore staff, their friends, two family members who also work at the coolstore and two representatives from RSE, would also be on the flight, he said.

Exelby said an open-caskets memorial service was held at the Memorial Hall in Katikati on Tuesday night, attended by about 350 to 400 mourners.

Exelby said it was "very moving" service.

"People were able to go up and pay their respects, lay flowers in the caskets, and say prayers to farewell these fine men," he said.

Exelby said coolstore staff performed a rousing haka after the service.

A funeral service was held in Auckland yesterday morning for New Zealand-based Fine, he said.

Fine had been working at the coolstore to help him finish his studies at Bethlehem Tertiary Institute to become a counsellor.

Allan Dawson, Aongatete coolstore managing director, said three funds had been launched to help support the deceased's families - one by the company, one by NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc supported by Horticulture New Zealand and the Five Fine Young Men Givealittle page launched by the Tongan Church, which last night had raised $1645.

"Our main focus is to try to fulfil some of the pledges these men had made to their families. That includes helping with their children's educational costs," he said.

Dawson said the company hoped to work with the other groups to amalgamate the three support funds into a single charitable trust fund, and appoint two independent trustees to help manage it.

Donations:

Anyone wanting to make a donation can deposit funds into Westpac account "Tongan Boys" at 03-1550-0017661-02 or into the NZ Kiwifruit Growers' Community Support Fund account number 06-0379-0245466-00.

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