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Kenya bus victim's heroic last moments

Thursday 17 Jan 2013 1:49p.m.

Kenya bus victim's heroic last moments

By 3 News online staff

A former Bethlehem College student killed following a bus crash in Kenya, told rescuers to help other people before tending to her.

Caitlin Dickson, 19, and parents from the school, Brian and Grace Johnston, were killed when the mini-van they were travelling in crashed and rolled into a ditch.

Speaking at an emotional press conference today, Lydia Hollister-Jones, 18, told of her best friend’s courage in her last moments.

“I believe that in her final moments she was telling people to go and help the other people, which just really shows the kind of person that she was.”

Lydia says Caitlin was a “selfless” person who was always looking to serve others.

“She was selfless, she had a real heart for others and she served and that’s what she was doing in Kenya, she was serving.”

The pair had grown up together since pre-school. Lydia says their friendship had changed her life.

“She was one of those people that you can laugh with, but you can really cry with and that you can walk through life with.”

The trio were part of a group of seven adults and 12 students from the college in Kenya to do volunteer work.

The accident happened on Tuesday morning (local time) as the group was heading back to the village of Mahanga, in Kenya's western province.

The driver of the minibus was also killed in the crash, while others sustained minor injuries. Bethlehem College is setting up a fund to support the driver's family.

Bodies to return home soon

The bodies of the three victims are expected to return home soon.

The Principal of Bethlehem College has dismissed rumours the bodies won't return home for another month.

Principal Eoin Crosby says the bodies have already left the hospital.

“They’ve been taken by a funeral director to Nairobi and the funeral director here, who is the same for all the families, is working in liaison with the general director in Kenya to ensure the safe passage of the bodies in Kenya back to New Zealand.”

Mr Crosbie says the other students who were injured in the crash are all recovering well, and will return to New Zealand in coming days.

Community mourns Kenya bus victims

The deaths of the three, while they were taking part in a volunteer mission, have hit Tauranga's Bethlehem College community hard.

Bethlehem Baptist Church senior pastor Craig Vernall told 3 News the college community is hurting.

"It's a real blow to us, we have to handle this situation with kid gloves," he said.

"We've got some really, really hurting people."

The group was due to fly out of Kenya on Saturday, the New Zealand Herald reported this morning.

Six other Kiwi students and two adults remain in hospital in stable conditions, as are a number of Kenyans.

The Bethlehem College Missions Facebook page has been inundated with messages of support for the families of those who have lost loved ones.

"I'm heart broken and praying for you all and your families and friend," writes Karina Anderson.

"My prayers are with all in this devastating situation," writes Lynden Wallis, "those who are in Kenya and those families and friends at home, that God would be your very great comforter at this time."

"May God uplift and comfort the Kenya team and their families," writes Amy McCallion.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board chief executive Phil Cammish said Dr Johnston and his wife leave behind a large family and a number of grandchildren.

Dr Johnston was described by his colleagues as "the nicest person you would ever meet" and someone who "would only ever give, never take", Mr Cammish said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) says the New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, is providing assistance and support after the accident.

It was the school's third trip to Kenya. The group left New Zealand on December 28 and they were helping build classrooms in an underprivileged village.

Bethlehem College is an independent Christian school.

Its website says it has a roll of about 1500, with pupils ranging from new entrants to year 13.

3 News / NZN

Watch the video for segments from the press conference

 
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