Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Aunt left ‘totally lost’ after Samoan man’s death in horror crash on Napier-Taupō road


The aunt of a Samoan man who died in a horror crash says her nephew’s death must be a lesson for other drivers on the road.

Lofa Tuimaualuga holds a photo of her nephew Tino Tagiilima, with his wife. Tagiilima died in a tragic highway crash in the North Island yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

By Tom Kitchin of rnz.co.nz

The accident happened on Monday on the highway between Napier and Taupō, which police have described as one of the country’s most lethal.

A convoy of three vans of seasonal workers from Hastings were travelling to Taupō for a holiday, but tragedy struck – at a turnoff to the Tarawera cafe, a popular stop along the road, one of the vans collided with a truck.

Tino Tagiilima was a passenger in the van and died at the scene.

His aunt Lofa Tuimaualuga told RNZ her brother – Tino’s father who lives in Australia – called her distraught yesterday afternoon.

“Before I knew that it was Tino, I’d been watching the video clip that people share on social media for about 10 times, not knowing it was Tino that died,” Tuimaualuga said.

“Until my brother rang me and he was crying on the phone, saying it was his son… I tried to hold the tears in but I was lost, totally lost.”

She urged other drivers to watch their driving on State Highway 5 from Napier to Taupō.

One person has died and nine others have been injured following a crash in Tarawera, north of Napier, this morning. Source: Facebook / Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter Service

“Whatever happened to Tino, it’s going to be a lesson for all the drivers to be more careful on the road, especially entering the road – the cars go too fast on the road, so just more careful on the road, that’s all I can say.”

Ten people were injured in the crash including two critically. The truck driver came away unscathed.

In Hastings, the community was offering support to the grieving workers.

Assemblies of God King’s House church minister Ailaulau Faletutulu said a prayer meeting was held  for the man’s colleagues.

“So far, we have a couple of ministers that went out there [to Tagiilima’s home], with a few of our key men to have a service, have a prayer and talk with them and encourage them with the situation, trying to stabilise their thinking so they can stop worrying which is really hard at the moment.”

The crash occurred on State Highway 5, Tarawera, between Tataraakina Road and Pohukura Road shortly before 10am. Source: Facebook / Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter Service

He said the man’s colleagues will be supported by local families.

“[We can] be that presence and let them know that we care and everything we can do for them while they are in this state of mind, that’s all we can do for now.”

The managing director of Thornhill Horticultural Contracting, Richard Bibby, said the workers had been at the company for nearly a year, when usually they would only work for seven months.

He said the holiday was “a bit of a thank you to them”.

“As just a bit of a thank you to them, to give them a bit of time out and do some of the touristy things that us Kiwis can do, and just having a relaxing time before they get back into the new season.”

Bibby said Tino had been with his company for seven years and described him as a leader, a fun and engaging man who impressed everyone.

“He’s just a really good guy and at the accommodation, he was just one of the souls of it. So the pastoral care workers in our accommodation are absolutely distraught with what’s happened.”

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