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Tongan driver on a learner’s license

Saturday 6 August 2016 | Published in Regional

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Mother says sorry for son’s role in road tragedy

NEW ZEALAND – The driver of the car that killed a father and son and two brothers-in-law including himself when it collided with an unladen logging truck near Katikati, New Zealand had a learner’s license.

Halani Fine, 28, was driving his car out of the Aongatete Coolhouse when it collided with the truck on Tuesday 2.

Sitiveni Vaipulu, 44, his son Koli Vaipulu, 21, Sione Teulaka, 21 and his brother-in-law Samuela Taukatelata, 29, were all killed in the tragedy.

Fine’s body had been returned to his family in Auckalnd while the rest of the victims are expected to be taken home to Tonga next Friday.

New Zealand Police Sergeant and Pacific Liaison District Coordinator Sanalio Kaihau confirmed that Fine was on a learner licence. Learner drivers must have a supervisor sitting in the front passenger seat. The supervisor is responsible for everyone in the car.

Fine’s mother, Mele Fine, has offered an apology through Tonga’s Kaniva News.

“I am sorry and I deeply felt for the families of those who were killed in the crash”, she said in Tongan.

“I wish they forgive my son”, she said. “My son was religious and he died while he was working to fulfil his dream to become a church missionary.

“He went to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island and those countries to spread the word of God. He came here to Aongatete to work for his school fees so he can continue studying.

“I have no words to express how I feel about the tragedy”, Mele said.

She said her son was very fond of music and made use of his talent by regularly visiting rest homes to perform music and singing to the elderly.

In an emotional hour and a half remembrance ceremony in Katikati on Friday night, more than 500 people came together in support of the families of those killed in the crash.

Wearing black clothes, and ta’ovala by most Tongans, the community joined together to grieve and to pledge peace, with speeches, hymns and prayers organised by the Katikati Tongan community and RSE Tongan Liason Officer Sefita Hao’uli.

Immediate family members and co-workers of the victims were visibly devastated during the services, Kaniva News reported. - PNC sources