A dream trip to Kenya has turned to tragedy for students
at Tauranga's Bethlehem College after a "grisly" crash claimed
the lives of three people.
A group of 12 students from the school, accompanied by seven
adults inlcuding parents, teachers and a doctor, left New
Zealand on December 28 to participate in a four-week
At 11.30am on Tuesday (Kenya time) the volunteers travelling
on the Nairobi-Murang'a highway in a car and minivan. It was
raining heavily and the van lost control, rolled and ran into
The van driver died instantly. Tauranga couple Brian and
Grace Johnston and former college pupil Caitlin Dickson were
A number of other students and adults in the group were
injured and are being treated at a private hospital.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said the
ministry was aware of "a motor vehicle accident in Kenya
involving students from Bethlehem College in Tauranga".
"The New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria is providing
consular assistance and support.
We are unable to release further details at this time."
As news of the tragedy broke this afternoon Bethlehem College
staff and families of the 12 students in Africa closed ranks
and declined to give any information about what had happened.
It was yet to be confirmed whether those who did not survive
died at the crash scene or later in hospital.
Murang'a South traffic boss Loise Gatimu told a local
reporter for The Star that the road where the crash happened
was notorious for bad driving.
She said most accidents in the region had been caused by
"We are losing too many innocent lives on this road that has
turned into a nightmare to residents due to careless driving.
The rising carnage can only be checked if drivers observe
"It is sad that we have lost one life," Gatimu said.
In November, some of the students spoke about the upcoming
trip - which they were looking forward to.
It was the third time that the college has sent volunteers to
the Ark Quest Education Centre, where they were set to spend
their time painting, building, teaching, visiting and
"generally helping out wherever they are needed".
Before the trip associate principal Phillip Russell told the
Bay of Plenty Times that he believed the journey was
life-changing for the students involved.
"When we visit Kenya, the students get as much as they give.
They come home with a whole new perspective about what's
important in life and most get really excited about making a
difference here in their own community"he said.
Each student had to raise $5000 to fund their trip, and they
had been fundraising for months in the lead up to it.
The college website still had information about the trip last
"The team will be based in Ma'hanga Village in the Vihiga
District of the Western Province. The team will be involved
in improving the school's facilities (painting, making
shelves and creating resources). There will be a strong focus
on building relationship with the community and being part of
village life. Students will also be involved in daily
devotions with a clear intention to strengthen their
The group were being hosted by the village in a local house
and were eating traditional Kenyan food during their stay.