The Filipino community is reeling following the tragic death of two men after a crash in Pongakawa involving a car and a freight train. Three men survived but were seriously hurt. A Filipino community leader has shared her thoughts about the impact of the crash and how the local community can assist the victims and their grieving families.
The men killed and seriously injured in a train crash this week had been travelling in convoy to their "dream jobs" in the Bay of Plenty's kiwifruit industry.
They had only been in New Zealand for about a week.
Tauranga Filipino Society vice-president Lolita Libeau said the two men killed, who police are yet to publicly identify, and three injured were all Filipino nationals and had only arrived in the country a few days ago.
The men had been travelling in convoy with another vehicle when their car was involved in a deadly collision with a train on Pongakawa School Rd, at State Highway 2, at 8.15am Wednesday.
Libeau said the second vehicle, occupied by four other Filipino men, had gone through the rail crossing intersection first. The occupants of that car were still in "deep shock" yesterday.
"It's was such a shock when I learned about the accident. I feel so sad. It's really tragic for all of us," she said.
The men were all on their way to work for Southern Cross Horticulture when the crash happened.
A staff member from the Philippines Embassy was due to arrive in Tauranga today to meet with her and other society members to discuss what support was needed and was available.
"I know when horrible things like this happen in this community lots of people are keen to help and that is why we plan to set up a Givealittle page," Libeau said.
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"I know the families of these men will have paid for them to come to New Zealand, and they would have saved for years to do so. These men would have been excited as working in New Zealand is a dream job for them and a big thing to them and their families.
"This is because Filipinos are known as hard workers and highly regarded and well-supported when they come here. These workers send most of their earnings back home.
Libeau said some of the men from the other vehicle were still struggling to talk about what happened.
The Filipino community was hurting, she said.
Southern Cross Horticulture chief executive Andrew Dunstan said he and his team were heartbroken.
"We are working with police to understand exactly what happened but our number one priority is, and will continue to be, supporting our team and their families as we progress through this together," Dunstan said.
"We are currently working with authorities in the Philippines to arrange emergency visas for families so we can bring them to be with their loved ones.
"We have been blown away by the support and offers of help received from the kiwifruit industry and local community."
One of the survivors has been treated and discharged from Tauranga Hospital. The two others remain in Waikato Hospital - one in a critical condition and the other in a serious but stable condition.
There are about 2000 members of the Filipino community living in the Bay of Plenty, including more than 660 in Tauranga.