Gisborne crash driver pleads not guilty to death, injury, charges

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Talakai 'Aholelei has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing three people and injuring 27 others. Photo/Facebook

The driver of a bus which crashed near Gisborne on Christmas Eve last year has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing three people and injuring 27 others.

Talakai Aholelei, 65, appeared in the Manukau District Court today.

He was charged with three counts of careless driving causing death and 27 charges of careless driving causing injury.

Aholelei, who was represented  by Nalesoni Tupou,  was remanded to appear in the Waitakere District Court on July 25.

A large contingent of the Tongan community were at court today.

Aholelei was driving a bus carrying members of the Mailefihi Siu’ilikutapu College brass, which was raising money for the Tongan school’s 70th anniversary.

The bus was carrying 53 members and supporters.

The group had been heading to Gisborne’s Wesleyan Methodist Church for a performance.

The bus went off the road about 30km south of Gisborne and plunged down an embankment.

Those killed in the crash, or who died from their injuries later, were school teacher Leotisia Malakai, 33 years-old Talita Fifita and 11 years-old Sione Taumalolo.

The survivors were later flown to Auckland. Memorial services were held in Gisborne and Auckland.

Following the crash, about NZ$70,000 was raised for the survivors from a Givealittle page and a concert.

The main points

  • The driver of a bus which crashed near Gisbourne on Christmas Eve last year has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing three people and injuring 27 others.
  • Talakai Aholelei, 65, appeared in the Manukau District Court today.
  • A large contingent of the Tongan community were at court today.
  • Those killed in the crash, or who died from their injuries later, were school teacher Leotisia Malakai, 33 years-old Talita Fifita and 11 year-old Sione Taumalolo.

For more information 

Gisborne bus crash driver Talakai Aholelei pleads not guilty 

Gisborne bus crash – Tongan school group leader dies

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