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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 volunteer project.
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 a ditch.
The van driver died instantly. Tauranga couple Brian and Grace Johnston and former college pupil Caitlin Dickson were also killed.
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 careless drivers.
"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 traffic rules.
"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 night.
"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 character."
The group were being hosted by the village in a local house and were eating traditional Kenyan food during their stay.