Grace and Brian Johnston were both killed in the road
accident in Kenya. Photo: Supplied
Three New Zealanders killed in a road accident in Kenya
were just days away from returning home.
Grace and Brian Johnston and Caitlin Dickson were on a
Christian volunteer mission to the small village of Ma'hanga.
Part of a 19-strong team from Bethlehem College in Tauranga,
they were due to fly out on Saturday.
The accident occurred in heavy rain on Tuesday night NZ time.
The van carrying the group reportedly lost control, rolled
and ended up in a ditch. The Kenyan driver also died.
Bethlehem College principal Eoin Crosbie said: "This tragedy
will touch the lives of many in this community as these were
all wonderful people who served others first as part of their
expression of their Christian faith."
Caitlin was a former student and two of the Johnstons' 10
children are still at the school.
Others from the Bethlehem College group were injured and are
in hospital in Kisumu. Last night, a charge nurse told the
Herald six NZ students and two adults were all stable, as
were a number of Kenyans also hurt in the crash.
The three New Zealanders killed had visited Kenya before and
were said to have been passionate about the work there, part
of the college's mission partnership programme.
The tragedy happened while the group were returning to the
Ark Quest School, in a village Mr Crosbie described as a
Bethlehem has been in partnership with Ark Quest for more
than two years and has similar links with the Solomon Islands
One of the injured students was Samuel McDougall. His aunt
told the Herald he was in hospital with an injured shoulder,
but "he's one of the lucky ones. His parents have spoken to
him; he's fine, really."
She said the three deaths would send shockwaves through the
tight-knit Bethlehem Christian community.
Also among the passengers were siblings Luke and Joy Fisher.
Their parents Bill and Michele were meeting last night with
Brian Johnston was a long-serving anaesthetist with the Bay
of Plenty District Health Board.
Yesterday marked 26 years since he began work with the board.
Chief executive Phil Cammish said Dr Johnston saw a need five
years ago for an anaesthetist in Whakatane so travelled there
"Brian was a dedicated Christian who is described by his
colleagues as the nicest person you would ever meet, and
someone who would only ever give, never take.
"Brian and Grace have also been described as being woven into
the fabric of the Bay of Plenty and will be sorely missed."
In Kenya, Murang'a South traffic chief Loise Gatimu told
local media most accidents in the region were 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
Friend Jim Cairns-Nelson, an anaesthetic technician, worked
alongside Dr Johnston for almost 15 years and
is involved with the Otumoetai Eels Rugby League Club, where
the Johnston boys Mike, Phil and Chris are players.
He said Dr and Mrs Johnston had 10 children and the family
showed up regularly to watch the boys' matches.
"Brian was a real league man - he's a quiet man, but we used
to talk Warriors all the time at the hospital."
Mr Cairns-Nelson said the Johnstons were "just the best kind
of people, and parents you'd want your kids to be around".
Bethlehem's head of drama, Linda Anderson, said Caitlin
Dickson got so much out of her experiences in Kenya last year
that she had wanted to return. "She saw the opportunity and
put her hand up."
Caitlin liked helping people so much that last year she
shaved her head to raise money for the teenage cancer support
Tributes last night were posted on Facebook for the victims.
Laurence Matthew Dean wrote of Caitlin: "I refuse to believe
that I will ever meet a woman with such a staggering zest for
life as you. You loved unconditionally, your dorky sense of
humour was infectious, you were everything we could have
asked for and more ... I love you, Caitlin Dickson, always."
Krista Mortensen said Caitlin was a woman of amazing faith
and love. "You are a legend, we love you."
- Andrew Koubaridis, Jamie Morton, Anna Leask and Vaimoana
Tapaleao/additional reporting: Bay of Plenty Times