The two people killed in the Christmas Eve bus crash near Gisborne last night have been named as Sione Taumalolo, and Talita Moimoi.

The pair, understood to be a 12-year-old boy and a 20-year-old woman respectively, were named on the New Zealand Kaniva Pacific news website.

Taumalolo is understood to be a student at Mailefihi Siuʻilikutapu College, whose brass band were touring New Zealand as part of a fundraiser when their bus crashed down a 100 metre bank about 10.30pm.

Forty-four others were injured.

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The driver of the bus says the brakes failed.

He told Mediaworks the brakes suddenly gave way and the bus picked up speed. He tried to stop the vehicle but ended up going off the road.

The driver said he was "absolutely devastated".

A passenger said everyone on the bus had been happy and singing before the crash. Afterwards, there were scenes of carnage.

"Some fell out of the bus... they shouted," he told Mediaworks.

Hifo Tolu, the secretary of the College's alumni in Gisborne, told Kaniva News seven members of the group were still in hospital.

Heartfelt tributes have been made on social media for Moimoi, who was chaperoning the school group when the crash occurred.

She is understood to be married and the mother of a young daughter.

One wrote that Moimoi lived for her family.

"A lady that never raised her voice , who lived to cater to her family, full of fun and life, and a mother to all, you where [sic] the best aunt I ever had and we are at lost big time without you and your kind smile. My heart goes out to your husband and baby girl."

Another woman said: "Quite a news for our little family and I'm saddened to even think about our last conversations."

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Kristina Williams lives near the crash site and was one of the first on the scene.

She has set up a Givealittle page to support the group, and visited some of the injured in Gisborne Hospital today.

Some were discharged from the hospital today, including the driver, and the mood was sombre.

"They are definitely all still in shock."

The scene following deadly bus crash near Gisborne on Christmas Eve. Photo / Facebook
The scene following deadly bus crash near Gisborne on Christmas Eve. Photo / Facebook

One of the adults in the group told her the victims were a 12-year-old boy and a 20-year-old woman.

The second victim was discovered this morning after a head count revealed one person was missing.

"Some people had gone to hospital in private cars and they did their tallies. The police realised one person hadn't been accounted for."

She did not have further details of those who had died, but knew the group faced a significant financial burden following the tragedy.

"They are in a desperate situation. They were on a fundraising trip for their college and they have virtually no money themselves, let alone insurance, and now they have ... costs involved with getting two bodies home for funerals."

The group were being cared for the Methodist Church community and had food and clothes, but little money, she said.

Donations to the group can be made here.