Suliasi Fifita doesn't know what he will tell his daughter about the mum she lost when a bus crashed 100 metres down a Hawke's Bay bank on Christmas Eve.

But it might be about how he felt when she smiled, and how she always took care of those she loved.

Fifita's little girl is just one year old and facing life without her mum, Talita "Lita" Moimoi Fifita, one of two people to die in the Tongan school group bus tragedy.

Fifita was too upset to speak to the New Zealand Herald this morning, but shared memories of his 33-year-old wife via his brother-in-law, Josh Vakasiuola.


"He can't really put into words what the loss means to him. No words can explain it," Vakasiuola said.

However, Fifita had spoken of one way he will remember his wife of 10 years.

"Suli always talks about how her smile always makes him happy. And for myself, and I think everybody, she was a very happy person, a very outgoing person. Every time we would meet her, she would always smile."

The couple's daughter, named Talita Jr in her mum's honour, was too young to understand her loss.

"She's running around. She's got no idea why everybody's in sorrow and grief. She's a very happy girl and she always looks forward to seeing her mum, but with the incident she won't see her ... again."

'We look after our family and that's why she went'

His sister-in-law was from the island of Vava'u, but lived with her husband on Tonga's main island of Tongatapu, 300km to the south-west.

The couple's home was a beacon for family, who would stay on their way to and from flights, Vakasiuola said.

"She always took care of looking after the family. My own daughter spent a lot of time with Talita. She took care of my daughter as if she was her own. That's the kind of person we remember her as."


His sister-in-law was in New Zealand to help her aunt, who was the tour leader.

"We look after our family and that's why she went."

The aunt survived the crash and told family she was sitting with the second victim of the crash, 11-year-old Sione Taumalolo.

Talita Fifita was sitting with another student from the Mailefihi Siuʻilikutapu College brass band, who were touring New Zealand as part of a fundraiser, Vakasiuola said.

Each pair were thought to be in the third and fourth rows of the bus, but family did not know how Talita Fifita died.

"All [her aunt] said was she got out fine, but they couldn't pull Talita out from the crash. Then the rescuers came down, and a chopper came."


Fifita was visiting family in Vava'u when the crash occurred, Vakasiuola said.

"He tried calling. He was worried when the news came through."

The sad news came later, and now Fifita was trying to get a flight to Tongatapu so he could meet his wife's body, Vakasiuola said.

It was not known when her remains would return, but she would eventually be farewelled on Vava'u, Vakasiuola said.