Tongan missionaries believe change of plan saved them from fatal Taupo crash

'Oku 'i lalo 'i he ongoongo fakapālangí ni ʻa hono fakamatala ʻi he lea faka-Tongá

Tongan missionaries who drove to Hastings in New Zealand believe a change of plan to refill their vehicle after their Sunday service saved them from a fatal crash near Taupo

Stewart James Niwa Vercoe, 43, of Hastings died in a crash on State Highway 5, Te Haroto, at about 4:20pm on Sunday, Police said.

Emergencies services, including a rescue helicopter, were called to the scene.

“Two other people were also taken to hospital in a critical condition. A further two people have moderate injuries”, Police said.

Nāmoe Sau Vea’ila, her husband Rev. Viliami Sēlupe Vea’ila, Hala’api’api Langoia, the Chief Church Steward of ‘Ōtahuhu Free Wesleyan Church and his wife Senita and the driver, who was also a church steward, travelled from South Auckland to Hastings to lead a prayer service there.

While in Hastings they agreed that Nāmoe and Senita would go to the petrol station and refill their vehicle before the services began, so they could leave for Auckland straight after the service.

However, Nāmoe changed the plan and said they could refill the vehicle on their way back.

On their return to Auckland they watched in horror as an oncoming vehicle was involved in a collision with another vehicle in front of them.

Nāmoe said the crash occurred “about six cars from us”.

She said they prayed and thanked God, believing they were the ones who might have been involved in the collision if they had gone ahead with their plan to refill their vehicle early.

Nāmoe said she was really shocked immediately after the crash.

They tried to call their families in Auckland to inform them that they were safe, but there was no network in the area.

She said they met some Tongan travellers near the scene while they were waiting for the road to be cleared.

Vercoe’s death brought the region’s road toll, from Wairoa to Tararua, up to 16; three more than the total number of fatalities for the region last year.

The main points

  • Tongan missionaries who drove to Hastings in New Zealand believe a change of plan to refill their vehicles after their Sunday service saved them from a fatal crash near Taupo
  • Stewart James Niwa Vercoe, 43, of Hastings died in a crash on State Highway 5, Te Haroto, at about 4:20pm on Sunday Police said.
  • Namoe Vea’ila said the crash occurred “about six cars from us.”

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