The mother's husband, who worked in forestry, had been on a
job in Invercargill when he received the devastating news
yesterday afternoon. Photo / Greymouth Star
A toddler involved in a crash which claimed the life of
his mother and brother yesterday could also have been killed,
had it not been for the heroic actions of members of the
public, police say.
Lavinia Langi, 43, and Lesili Langi, 15 were killed when
their car went over a bank and rolled into a creek as they
drove through Taylorville, near Greymouth, shortly before
Senior Sergeant Allyson Ealam said the toddler, who police
said was 3-years-old but who a family member said was 4, had
started clambering out of the upturned car and into the
fast-flowing creek when he was rescued by members of the
Had they not come to his aid the boy could "most certainly''
have been swept away.
"They're our heroes,'' Ms Ealam said.
"I know it's a tragedy that a mum and son have lost their
lives. But honestly, we could have lost that little chap as
When police arrived, the toddler told them that his
8-month-old sister had also been in the car so they launched
an urgent search of the area.
Fortunately, it was established that the girl was being
looked after by another family member.
The vehicle was being inspected and post-mortem examinations
would be carried out on the bodies today.
The Tongan community is rallying to support the grieving
family as are schools, including Greymouth High School, where
Lesili was a Year 11 student. His sister also attends the
high school, while three younger siblings attend Karoro
"It is obviously very sad for us, especially at this time of
the year,'' Karoro School principal Maureen Truman said.
"The community is rallying behind the family. Students have
written messages to their classmates and we, as a school, are
waiting to hear how to best support them,'' Mrs Truman said.
The local Tongan community had been "fabulous'', as had the
larger community: "We have had donations of food dropped off
to us to give to the Langis, as well as financial
Greymouth High School principal Andy England said Lesili was
a "very special part of the school''.
"He was a character and a trickster and enjoyed playing
pranks on his friends.''
He was also involved in the Tongan dance group and often
"I remember seeing him light up when he was leading the
dances - he was really amazing.''
The Langi family moved to Greymouth about seven years ago.
Ms Ealam said the crash occurred following a heavy downpour,
after which there were at least four other crashes in the
region in a short time-frame.
"We want everybody to adhere to the speed limit, to drive to
the conditions and to get where they're going,'' Ms Ealam
"If you're going on holiday leave plenty of time, have plenty
of breaks and have a safe Christmas.''