Crash driver on learner’s licence, outpouring for Tongan victims

The driver of the car that killed a father and son and two brothers-in-law including himself when it collided with an unladen logging truck on Dawson Rd off State Highway near Katikati, New Zealand was on a learner’s licence.

Halani Fine, 28, was driving his car from the Aongatete Coolhouse when it collided with the truck on Tuesday 2.

Sitiveni Vaipulu, 44, his son Koli Vaipulu, 21, Sione Teulaka, 21 and his brother-in-law Samuela Taukatelata, 29, did not survive the tragedy.

Fine’s body had been returned to his family in Northshore while the rest of the victims were expected to arrive in Tonga next Friday.

New Zealand Police Sergeant and Pacific Liaison District Coordinator Sanalio Kaihau confirmed in last night’s remembrance ceremony for the crash victims Fine was on a learner licence. Learner drivers must have a supervisor sitting in the front passenger seat. The supervisor is responsible for everyone in the car.

Following the tragic news, a Tongan Community Leader set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help the family cover funeral expenses and any additional expenses they may incur.

“Organizing on behalf of the Tongan community to fundraise to support the families of the deceased,” the page said.

“Funds will be paid to a verified bank account of Melino Maka on behalf of The Families of Halani Fine, Koli Vaipulu, Sitiveni Vaipulu, Sione Teulaka, and Samuela Taukatelata”.

This afternoon – 48 hours after the page was launched – donations exceeded $1,000.

Mele, Halani’s mother with a photo of Halani. Photo/Kalino Latu

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment offered a message of condolence.

“On behalf of our Manager George Rarere, our Pacific Labour & Skills Unit and RSE family, I convey our collective deepest sympathies to the families of all five men, including the Vaipulu family, who have lost two loved family members (Father and son) in this tragic crash. Our thoughts are also with the Tongan RSE Team of Minister Vakata, CEO Ana Bing Fonua, ‘Akanesi ‘Otunuku and Sefita Hao’uli, as well as the RSE employer Aongatete and all the RSE Tongan workers.

“Our Team are continuing to work closely with the different stakeholders in both New Zealand and Tonga to ensure all requirements and expectations are address and adequately met.

“This tragic accident has highlighted the need to further enforce upon our RSE workers/drivers to please take care and drive to the conditions, as we don’t want to see anyone else needlessly lose their lives”.

“May the grace of our Heavenly Father be with our Tonga Family to provide support and comfort in this time of sorrow and pain.

Fine’s mother Mele told Kaniva News his son was very fond of music.

She said his son makes used of his talent to entertain the poor and the elderly.

She said Halani regularly went to rest homes and performed music and singing to the elderly.

As we reported earlier this morning Mele said:

“I am sorry and I deeply felt for the families of those who were killed in the crash”, she said in Tongan.

“I wish they forgive my son”, she said.

“My son was religious and he died while he was working to fulfil his dream to become a church missionary

“He went to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island and those countries to spread the word of God

“He came here to Aongatete to work for his school fees so he can continue studying.

“I have no words to express how I feel about the tragedy”, Mele said.


Crash victims honoured; “I am sorry”, Halani’s mother says

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