A third person has died as a result of a Christmas Eve bus crash on the road between Wairoa and Gisborne.

Police revealed yesterday that 55-year-old Leotisia Malakai, one of 45 members of Mailefihi Siu'ilikutapu College brass band from Tonga on the bus during a visit to New Zealand, died in Waikato Hospital on New Year's Day.

Sione Taumalolo, 11, and Talita Moimoi Fifita, 33, were killed in the mid-evening crash which happened when the bus crashed an estimated 100 metres down a bank near the State Highway 2 landmark of Barretts in the Wharerata Hills.

The latest death took the holiday season road toll to 19, the three in the crash being the only fatalities during the 12 days in the Eastern Police District, which extends from East Cape to Norsewood in Central Hawke's Bay.


It took the national toll for 2016 provisionally to 327, and the toll in the Eastern Police District provisionally to 16, said district road policing manager Matt Broderick.

While the Eastern District toll for 2016 is provisionally one more than for the previous year, the number in the five council areas in the Hawke's Bay Today circulation area, from Wairoa to Tararua, remains at 13, the lowest since 2013 and the second-lowest in more than half a century.