The teenager driving in the fatal Bethlehem College crash
would not have been legally allowed to drive the HiAce which
rolled in Kenya.
The Tauranga school admitted this week former student David
Fellows, 18, was driving the van which crashed last month,
killing four people.
Kenya's Traffic Act requires drivers of minibuses - known as
"matatus" - to be at least 24 years old and have held a
licence for cars or commercial vehicles for four years or
more. A matatu is defined as a public service vehicle (PSV)
having seating for up to 25 passengers.
Bethlehem College's board of trustees chairman Greg
Hollister-Jones said he had "no idea" if the law was
discussed before the fatal journey.
Traffic laws were the subject of a major publicity campaign
in Kenya while the college group were there. Kenya
Broadcasting Corporation deputy editor-in-chief Samuel Maina
said Kenya's Ministry of Transport launched "a huge campaign"
around mid-November in five major newspapers, five TV
stations, and around 10 radio stations. "The issue of road
carnage is a big issue in Kenya," Maina said.
If Kenyan authorities deemed the Ark Quest Academy HiAce -
which was marked "School Van" - was a vehicle intended for
public service, more offences could have been committed.
Under Kenyan law, it was an offence for a non-designated
person to drive a PSV, or for other people to allow such a
person to drive.
"If you're running a taxi, school van, a bus, minibus, tour
van - all that falls under PSV and I think all the rules
apply to that uniformly about what you need to have if you're
operating a PSV," said Amar Mehta, senior associate at
Nairobi-based Coulson Harney law firm.
Initially, Kenyan man Christopher Mmata was falsely named as
the driver in the January 16 crash. He died, as did three New
Zealanders. Fellows has since apologised - and acknowledged
there should not have been a driver swap - but it remains
unclear who prevented Fellows being immediately identified as
Hollister-Jones said the college was investigating. "I've
been saying for days the circumstances around the driver swap
will be the subject of the board's inquiry."
The Bethlehem College group were building and maintaining
school facilities in Mahanga, roughly 375km northwest of
Former Bethlehem College pupil Caitlin Dickson, 19, and
Tauranga couple Brian and Grace Johnston died in the accident
and were farewelled last week.
- John Weekes of the Herald on Sunday