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

Grieving families and community members gathered to honour loved ones killed in the logging truck crash – two days on from the tragedy.

Sitiveni Vaipulu, 44, his son Koli Vaipulu, 21, Sione Teulaka, 21, Halani Fine, 29, and Samuela Taukatelata, 28, did not survive the collision near their workplace on Tuesday.

Their bodies were released by the coroner to their various families yesterday.

The body of Fine has been taken to Northshore, New Zealand  to his family last night while the other four bodies were expected to arrive in Tonga next Friday.

In an emotional hour and a half remembrance ceremony at Christian Centre on Henry Rd in Katikati last night more than 500 people came together in support of the grieving families and those killed in the crash.

Wearing black clothes and taʻovala by most Tongans the community joined together to grieve and pledge peace, with speeches, hymns and prayers organised by the Katikati Tongan community and RSE Tongan Liason Officer Sefita Hao’uli.

Immediate family members and co-workers of the victims were visibly devastated during the services.

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Mele  said she wished the families of the victims forgive her son. Photo/Kalino Latu

The church was adorned with Tongan koloa faka-Tonga and pictures of the victims were placed in front by the stage.

About half of those attended came out of town.

Halani Fine’s mother Mele told Kaniva News last night she was devastated by what had happened.

Her son was the driver of the car when the tragedy struck.

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‘Ana Kava (2nd right) and some of the Katikati community members

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

The prayer service was led by Rev Fono ʻAhio.

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Politicians were present, too: Pacific Peoples’ Minister Sam Lotu Iga, Tongan Labour MP Jenny Salesa, Coromandel MP Scott Simpson and Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson.

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