College to hold inquiry into Kenyan bus crash
Thursday 31 Jan 2013 9:18 a.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.