Two killed after horrific school band bus crash

The body of a second person has been found following a bus crash near State Highway 2 south of Gisborne on Christmas eve.

The death toll is now two, and 27 people have been taken to hospital 

Over 45 people were on board when the bus crashed through a barrier after 10:00pm and went down a bank near Wharerata.

Eight people have been admitted to Gisborne Hospital and a further two were airlifted direct to Hastings Hospital.

The bus was carrying students and teachers from Tonga's Mailefihi Siuilikutapu College Brass Band, who are visiting New Zealand to fundraise for their school in Tonga.

The group were travelling to Gisborne's Wesleyan Methodist Church where they were due to perform as a band on Christmas Day.

Shocked friends and family of the students have taken to Facebook to share their grief.

State Highway 2 between Wairoa and Gisborne has been reopened.

The serious crash unit is investigating and say the extraction of the bus is likely to be challenging and may take a number of days to complete due to the terrain and lack of heavy equipment during the Christmas period.

A vigil is expected to be held for the victims at 8pm on Sunday night at the Wesley Methodist Church in Gisborne. Alfred Ngaro and other Tongan dignitaries are expected to be in attendence.