Bus crashes make up only about 1 per cent of the country's deaths on our roads but exactly a year ago today five people lost their lives when a Chinese tour bus lost control near Rotorua. Journalist Kelly Makiha looks back on that horrific day with those who we were there.
Bishal Jung Basnet jumped out of his car while it was still moving to get to the bloodied and screaming who were desperate for help after their tourist bus overturned.
Moments earlier the bus had lost control while rounding a corner, swerved violently and rolled.
Passengers were thrown from their seats, five were propelled out the rear window on to the ground. The bus rolled and landed on its side, crushing their bodies.
When Basnet, who had been travelling from his Te Puke home towards Hamilton with his brother, cousin and friend, rounded a corner and saw a woman waving down traffic for help he had no idea the bodies of the dead were crushed under the bus.
"My brother slowly stopped but I jumped from the car before he stopped. I could see clearly the bus on its side. Everyone was crying and screaming."
He saw a woman struggling to walk so he flung her over his back and carried her away from the crash area, before helping the others until emergency services arrived.
He spent about an hour at the site helping with the injured and managing traffic.
It's been a year today since the crash which killed five people including a child and injured eight others so badly they spent weeks recovering in hospital.
Basnet said he had travelled that road about four times in the past year and it was never easy going past where the crash happened.
"Every time I pass I look around at the spot and think of the passengers."
The driver, Junwei Zhang, has pleaded guilty to five charges of careless use of a motor vehicle causing death and eight charges of careless use of a motor vehicle causing injury.
He is on bail and will be sentenced on September 21 in the Rotorua District Court.
The bus was carrying 27 people when it rolled on State Highway 5 at Ngatira, 20km northwest of Rotorua, on a stretch of bush-edged road between Waiohotu and Galaxy Rds about 11am.
Police have said there wasn't any evidence Zhang was speeding but instead a strong crosswind caused the rear wheels of the bus to slip. Zhang lost control and the bus swung into the opposing lane rotating 180 degrees.
The scene was made even more tricky for emergency workers who were unable to speak clearly with the passengers because of the language barrier.
Rotorua Chinese Community Association chairman Robert Liu said the association had been working closely with the Chinese Embassy since the crash to bring about change to get security cameras inside tourist buses.
He said through the embassy they were in the process of approaching the Ministry of Transport to recommend tour companies install cameras.
They had also spoken to individual tourist companies, some of which had agreed to it.
Ministry of Transport acting mobility and safety manager Lucy Nie said travelling by bus was the safest mode of road transport in New Zealand and significantly safer than travelling by car.
Since 1990, bus crashes have accounted for 1 to 1.5 per cent of annual fatal and injury crashes. There has not been an increase in the number of crashes involving buses in New Zealand over the long-term.
She said the installation of cameras inside tour buses was not part of the Ministry of Transport's current work programme and they were yet to be approached by the Chinese Embassy.
Meanwhile, Liu said he was proud of how the Rotorua community responded for the call for help.
He said locals raised $12,000 and gifted it to the victims' families and the money was sent back to China.
Oppies Takeaways owner Michael Huang, who supported the crash victims by providing traditional Chinese food in hospital, said the crash brought the Chinese community together and many still kept in touch.
"We have become friends now and still keep in contact. It was so hard to be part of it but I'm so grateful with how New Zealand took care of our Chinese visitors."
The Chinese Embassy was approached for comment.
An Accident Compensation Corporation spokesman said funeral grants of up to $6311.49 were paid for all five people who were killed.
Specific details about how much ACC money was paid to the survivors was unavailable.
Emergency services reflect on the crash
Fluent Mandarin-speaking police officers were among the many who pitched in to do their best for the devastated and traumatised Chinese tour bus crash victims a year ago.
Rotorua area road policing manage Senior Sergeant Simon Sinclair said there were several factors that made the crash tricky, including the location, communication and wet and windy weather conditions.
"Police received multiple reports of the crash in differing locations along with conflicting reports of numbers involved and injuries sustained."
He said while police staff were trained to deal with crashes involving serious injury and death communication with the victims' families was an added challenge.
"Fortunately we were able to call on the skills of a number of Rotorua-based officers fluent in Mandarin."
Sinclair said their contribution and efforts were pivotal in progressing the investigation and communicating with the passengers, company owners and family members.
"As you can imagine being involved in a serious crash in a foreign country would have been a very frightening and daunting experience. Having police staff with the ability to converse with the victims would have been a small comfort for those involved in this tragic crash."
To ease congestion at Rotorua Hospital, a temporary triage was set up at the Pererika St ambulance station to treat those who didn't have life-threatening injuries.
St John district operations manager Jeremy Gooders said staff trained for major incidents such as this.
He said Rotorua ambulances were dispatched and others in the region covered.
"There are many instances where patients are unable to communicate and ambulance officers are skilled at treating injuries and symptoms in these circumstances. On this occasion, an interpreter was available from the tour company and interpreters arranged through police and civil defence responded to the ambulance station to assist."
Gooders said St John ambulance officers trained to deal with difficult and stressful situations, but traumatic incidents like this could stay with someone.
"St John wrapped support around those who responded to this incident with immediate support from senior managers and colleagues."
Those killed in the crash were Shifen wei, Tiancai Lyu, Feng Luo, Lianfang Wang and Yaocen Wang.
Junyin Lei suffered bruising to his hand and a concussion; Xiaojun Li suffered multiple broken ribs, a fractured clavicle and numerous fractures within the pelvic area; Hongbing Zhang suffered a lower spine fracture; Aibi Quan suffered two broken ribs, a fractured sternum and two clavicle fractures; Yuxian Li suffered a neck fracture; Xiaorong Yan suffered a fractured rib; Ying Guo suffered a fractured scapular and a broken rib and Hao Wang suffered undisclosed injuries.