‘Nice guy’ first road victim of 2015 as police ask public to help curb unlicensed drivers

Family and friends of the first road-crash victim for 2015 in Vava’u are reeling over the death of a “nice guy” known to have had no trouble at all with anyone.

Tikisinali Kena, 29, was the driver of a mini-bus that was involved in a collision with a rental car on Wednesday.

Kena was thrown out of the van and lay unconscious at the scene of the accident near his village of Leimatu’a. He died in hospital soon afterwards.

Kena, who lived in New Zealand, was in Tonga to visit his parents in Vava’u.

Vava’u Superintendent Netane Falakiseni said Police had charged the driver of the rental car, Vaka Fanua, with reckless driving causing death.

It is understood that Fanua, 22, from Leimatu’a, was not licensed at the time of the incident.

Superintendent Falakiseni said unlicensed drivers were becoming a big problem in Vava’u.

There was fear that the increasing availability of rental cars on the main island of Vava’u would put more unlicensed drivers into the road.

Falakiseni said people who did not hold a driver’s licenses asked family members or friends who had valid licenses to hire them rental cars.

Once rented, the cars were given to whoever in their family wanted to drive but did not have a license.

In January this year the Minister for Land Transport, Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu, said 95 percent of drivers in Tonga were unlicensed and only a quarter of the kingdom’s vehicles were registered.

Of the 4000 vehicles operating in the northern islands of Vava’u, only 200 vehicles were registered.

No plate numbers

Falakiseni said many road users in Vava’u were found by Police to be driving vehicles without registration plates on the road.

Road users pay for the registration plate number and have to wait for a few days before they arrive. Apparently many people cannot wait and take to the road without registration plates.

Falakiseni took to Facebook this week to call on the people of Vava’u to help keep unlicensed drivers off the streets and to make sure people follow traffic and road transport laws.

He said Police fined people driving without licenses on the road, but given the size of the force, its officers could not do the works all by themselves. He said they had other commitments and they were asking the public to help.

One respondent to his post on Facebook suggested that Police could work in partnership with district and town officers to crack down the problem. He said even clergy could be contacted to discuss the matter with their congregations.

One Vava’uan from New Zealand who had been to Vava’u recently commented on Falakiseni’s post and said that after renting a car on the island he realised the registration was expired.

He told the rental agency operator about the expired registration, but he was told to take the car and promised that if the Police caught him, the operator would pay the fine.

Falakiseni did not respond to the comments.

The Superintendent mentioned Kena’s death, saying people were dying on the road and the community had to work together to stop it.

Tribute to Kena

Since Wednesday, Facebook has been flowing with tributes to Kena, who moved to New Zealand to study and stayed on to raise a family.

His niece Lataisia Tamale wrote: “Our (heart felt) the lost [sic] of a dear uncle Tikisonali Kena a.k.a Tiki Kena (cry emoticon).  It was so saad [sic]  to see the pain that you’ve been through, Si’i mate ofa atu ki ho mata Tiki lahi. God has gained another angel from Pese Hall Kuila Great Grandchildren. Rest In Peace Nali”.

Another family member wrote: “I can’t stand to see my sister and your babies in pain so I pray that God may look over your little family and comfort them”.

“Tiki will be missed more for his giving personality, charisma, caring for others, love and most of all his heart.  Twice as big as the state of LEIMATZ (Leimatu’a).  Tiki gave it all every day to each and every one of us and our lives have forever been hollowed without him. You will be missed and remain in our hearts. Rest in peace brother Tiki Kena,” Eshe Kuila wrote.

One of his close friends wrote that Kena was one of the nicest guys he had ever met.

The main points

  • Tonga’s main island of Vava’u has suffered its first road death of the year.
  • Tikisinali Kena, 29, was the driver of a mini-bus that was involved in a collision with a rental car on Wednesday.
  • Vava’u Superintendent Netane Falakiseni said Police have charged the driver of the rental car, Vaka Fanua, with reckless driving causing death.
  • It is understood that Fanua, 22, from Leimatu’a, was not licensed at the time of the incident.

For more information

Unlicensed driver arrested (Kaniva News)

Most vehicles in Tonga unregistered (RNZI)

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