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Two dead in bus crash near Gisborne

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/12/2016

Alfred Ngaro, the minister for Pacific peoples, is heading to Gisborne to support Tongan school students involved in a horrific bus crash on Christmas Eve.

Two people are dead and one is critically injured after the bus carrying about 45 passengers crashed through a road barrier and down a bank on State Highway 2 about 30km south of Gisborne at 9.30pm on Saturday.

Police aren't commenting on the identities of those who died but they're reported to be a woman and a boy.

The bus driver told Newshub his brakes failed.

"It is particularly tragic that this group from Vava'u, Tonga was visiting Gisborne to celebrate Christmas and participate in fundraising festivities," says Mr Ngaro.

"Instead, they are now mourning the loss of two of their group and supporting others who are injured and in hospital."

A spokeswoman for Hastings Hospital says one person is in intensive care in a critical condition and one is stable in a general ward.

Gisborne Hospital says 27 of the passengers were brought in for treatment and eight people were admitted.

Members from the group not requiring hospitalisation are being accommodated by the local Tongan community, Methodist Church, and Victim Support.

Radio New Zealand reports the group are a brass band from Mailefihi Siu'ilikutapu College who were touring the country and had performed at Wellington's Christmas parade.

Kristina Williams, a local who was among those first on the scene, has set up a givealittle page for the group.

"They only have the clothes they were wearing at the time of the accident, all their belongings are trapped and strewn down a steep bank," she says.

"As one of the first on the scene of the accident I was in admiration of this group's composure, attitude and thanks towards one another and their helpers."

Police say the driver of the bus was assisting with inquiries into the accident.

However, the extraction of the bus may take a number of days to complete because of the difficult terrain and availability of heavy equipment during the Christmas period, serious crash investigators say.

The road between Wairoa and Gisborne was closed overnight but has been reopened.

The deaths takes the holiday road toll to three, after a woman died after being hit by a car in Takapuna on Friday night.

Last year, there were 12 deaths on the roads during the holiday period. This year the holiday period runs from 4pm on December 23 to 6am on January 4.

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