The Australian teenager critically injured in a crash which killed two people near Rotorua is awake and talking to his parents, while his classmates mourn the loss of a fellow student and teacher.
The 16-year-old from North Queensland who was on a school trip when the van he was in collided with a Fonterra milk tanker on State Highway 5 near Reporoa has been joined by his parents who are at his bedside at Waikato Hospital. The boy was yesterday stable in a ward after being moved from the high dependency unit.
The boy's parents did not want to speak to the Herald, but yesterday released a statement saying their son was improving daily with great support from hospital staff and that they looked forward to taking him home soon.
Teacher Andre Vogel (left) and 16-year-old student Gabriel Runge were killed in a crash near Rotorua on Friday.
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Noosa Pengari Steiner School principal Allen Kloeden said the student had woken from his coma.
"While his recovery will take some time, the whole school community was gladdened by this."
Students from the school, including five who had been in New Zealand on a seven-day hiking trip and had only arrived back in Australia late Sunday night, held a ceremony on Monday to honour teacher Andre Vogel and 16-year-old Gabriel Runge who were killed in the crash. Their bodies were transferred to a Rotorua funeral home before being flown back to Australia.
A bridge being constructed at the school was expected to be completed by the end of the week and would be named "Gabby's Bridge", in Gabriel's memory as he had helped build it.
The school had been overwhelmed by gifts and messages of support which had come from Australia and overseas.