Inquiry to focus on driver swap
Thu, 31 Jan 2013 9:20a.m.
By 3 News online staff
The Tauranga school at the centre of controversy over a bus crash in Kenya that killed four people says an inquiry will determine the facts of what happened.
Kenyan driver Calvin Ominde told Firstline yesterday that he denied the claims made by Bethlehem College that he'd tried to cover up the identity of the driver, former student David Fellows.
Caitlin Dickson, Brian and Grace Johnston, and local man Christopher Mmata died two weeks ago after the crash near the small village of Ma'hanga. Five others were taken to hospital.
Mr Mmata was supposed to be driving the van, and was initially thought to have been at the wheel when the accident occurred. But Bethlehem College revealed on Tuesday that Mr Fellows, an 18-year-old recent graduate of the college, was actually driving at the time of the crash.
Bethlehem College board of trustees chairman Greg Hollister-Jones told Firstline this morning they have hired a professional to assist with their investigation.
"The main focus of inquiry will be around the driver swap, and the circumstances surrounding that," says Mr Hollister-Jones.
The school hopes to talk to Mr Ominde, who initially said he thought Mr Mmata was behind the wheel at the time of the crash because that's where he found his body – not because the school told him to lie.
"Why should I cover up for them when I’m mourning? When I’m mourning the death of my friend? I really feel offended," Mr Ominde said yesterday.
"The other driver is dead, that's Christopher [Mmata]," says Mr Hollister-Jones, "so one of our primary sources of information isn't available. But I expect we will be speaking to Calvin [Ominde].
"He'll be a source of information about what happened before, because he last saw Christopher driving, as we're told, and he was first on the scene, and he assisted our tour party at the scene and in the hospitals that followed."
Mr Hollister-Jones says the school has not been contacted by Kenyan authorities, who may seek to extradite Mr Fellows.
No extradition treaty exists between New Zealand and Kenya, but if a request is made for Mr Fellows to face charges, Commonwealth extradition protocols must be followed.
The school has not sought to contact Kenyan authorities on its own.
"It's important that the proper channels are followed here, and our relationship is with MFAT," says Mr Hollister-Jones, "and if the NZ Police want to speak to us, with them."
He says the board of trustees is satisfied that Mr Fellows, not Mr Mmata, was driving the van at time of the accident. Mr Hollister-Jones says the former student has handled the difficult situation well.
"I've watched him in two or three meetings, and I've been impressed. He went and visited overseas relatives of one of the families before they left after the funeral and apologised, and he met the parents of the tour group and apologised.
"I've been very impressed with the way he conducted himself."
Mr Fellows has sought legal advice.
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31/01/2013 10:42:05 a.m.
The boy should just relax and proceed with life.My experience,having lived in Kenya for over thirty years,is that the Kenyan Police will just ignore the case and consider it closed.It is election period and most likely they are busy with other things,and this may not be a priority,so they may not make contact immediately.They may make contact if someone opens a complaint with them on the matter,for instance the dead man's family,usually through an MP.Currently,there is no parliament until April. The dead included citizens of NZ,and the NZ government must be able to demand to know circumstances under which their citizens died abroad,and the people involved in the deaths punished. If investigations are done and it is found that it was the boy's fault,then under commonwealth law he can face the charges in New Zealand and punished in NZ,but will have to be in agreement with the Kenyan government.I do not see the Kenyans following it up,unless there is a complaint,pressure or suddenly prefer to reopen the case due to too much media coverage and want to be seen that they follow the law.
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