NZME reporter Jacob McSweeny talks to members of Ngāi Te Rangi involved in the bus crash near Sanson. Video by Bevan Conley

Seconds after the bus Ngāi Te Rangi iwi members were in flipped off the road Josh Te Kani went into what's been described a "hulk-like" mode ripping out the back window of the bus to help the victims.

The survivors from the crash were from Ngāi Te Rangi in Tauranga Moana and had travelled to Wellington to protest the Pare Hauraki Treaty settlement deed signing at Parliament.

On their way home, their bus, carrying 19 people, crashed off the road into a ditch on State Highway 1 near Sanson at 2.47pm.

Josh Te Kani's actions to try save people immediately after the crash have been described as
Josh Te Kani's actions to try save people immediately after the crash have been described as "hulk-like".

Te Kani was in the car directly behind the bus when it went off the road.

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With the help of a passenger at the back of the bus, Te Kani ripped out the back window.

"We could hear people murmuring and a bit of moaning going on as well," Te Kani said.

"We couldn't quite see everybody at that stage. The bottom of the wreckage was filling up with water."

A lot of the younger people were at the back of the bus and came out relatively unscathed. Te Kani said they were concerned about the elderly who were at the front and submerged in the water.

"One of our kuia [was] right down to the back of the seat. She found just enough space for her nose to be able to draw air as she was being weighed down by baggage and another passenger beside her. They were able to locate her and get her out of there soaking wet and covered in mud."

He said another of their elderly women couldn't move because she had broken ribs. As of yesterday , she was still in Palmerston North Hospital in a stable condition.

Ngāi Te Rangi's chief executive, Paora Stanley, described Te Kani's actions in the seconds after the vehicle went off the road as "hulk-like".

"The back of the bus starts to veer, it crosses the centre line, it takes a beeline straight off the road into a deep ditch. It rolls as it takes the corner of the road. It falls over and rolls in front of my eyes and comes to a stop belly up, smoking in a creek. It's probably something that will stick with me for a little while."

Maatai Ariki Kauae Te Tuki was sitting in the front of the bus.

"[After] the first spin, I felt around, I'm going 'We're still all right, we're here'. Then I felt the bus go again. I said 'We all need to brace ourselves because we don't know about that next [spin], when the bus comes to a stop, what can happen to us'."

Kauae Te Tuki said he told the driver they had to get out quickly, so some of the more elderly had room to get out.

"I said to our driver, because some of our nannies were in the water, 'You and I need to move along to get out of the water. We can't help our family, there's others coming to help'.

"I just yelled out to the nans and said 'You'll be all right'."

Fewer than 24 hours after their bus flipped off the road near Sanson, Ngāi Te Rangi members held each other tight and cried tears of joy outside Rātana Temple.

They had been separated for the night and were accommodated in Whanganui and Palmerston North so as not to overburden the two hospitals.

The meeting on the street outside of the temple was an intensely emotional one, as if they hadn't seen each other in years. For some, it was the first time they had seen each other since the crash.

"Today was really a time for us to come back together," said Te Kani.

The service was a chance for the Ngāi Te Rangi members to say thanks to the people who had rallied behind them.

"I received a call from one of our whānau members in Palmerston North who's related to the people who were on the bus ... half had been sent to Whanganui and the others to Palmerston North," said Piri Rurawhe, the secretary general of the Rātana Church.

"We contacted our people in both parishes to get along to the hospitals to ... provide support and then later on providing prayers for them and for their whānau. But also providing kai and clothes and all that sort of stuff."

The cause of the accident was under investigation. There were no fatalities, but one woman remained in hospital in a stable condition this morning.

Te Tuki said the bus had troubles with a tyre on its way to Wellington.

"Our tyre played up. We came to Marton, we couldn't get the AA to fix it so [I] said to our driver, 'You and I, young fella, we've got to go and show our young ones to try and help them'."

They managed to get the tyre off and fixed within an hour and safely made it to Wellington.

Paora Stanley refuted reports the bus had failed a Certificate of Fitness as recently as 2013 and was the same brand as one involved in a fatal crash last weekend.

"I've just come from the crash unit down in Ohakea and just had a quick few words with them. You leave the interpretations of the cause of the accident to those who are skilled in investigating that.

"In terms of the bus - its COF was only three weeks old. Whatever comes out as the cause of the crash our job is to make sure ... we participate fully and that we give as much information as we can over to the authorities who are investigating."

The bus was owned by Ngāi Te Rangi, he said and had regularly taken cross-country journeys.