Church and fam­ily ‘heart­bro­ken’ after crash

Manawatu Standard - - Front Page - KAROLINE TUCKEY

Just min­utes be­fore a crash that killed a Palmer­ston North woman and three other peo­ple, fam­ily mem­bers were shar­ing happy mem­o­ries on­line, mourn­ers have been told.

The Free Wes­leyan Church of Tonga hosted a vigil at its Bun­nythorpe premises near Palmer­ston North on Wednesday night to re­mem­ber and pray for church mem­ber and newly or­dained lay preacher Meli Ilis­api Oliveti, 44.

Oliveti, who was also known as Pesi Tuivai, was killed when the peo­ple-mover she was a pas­sen­ger in col­lided with an­other peo­ple­mover 1 kilo­me­tre south of the in­ter­sec­tion of State High­way 1 and Tu­tukau Rd, Oru­anui, Taupo¯ , about 3.15pm on Tues­day.

Three peo­ple from the other ve­hi­cle died – Leighton Phillip Ahuriri, 60, of Aus­tralia; and He­lena Adele Paul, 56, and Hone Te Ahurei Hawkins-kanuta, 5, of Kaikohe, North­land. Eight oth­ers were in­jured in the hor­rific crash.

‘‘I had a look on the driver’s wife’s Face­book page – they up­loaded some happy mem­o­ries and then it was only a cou­ple of min­utes and then the ac­ci­dent hap­pened,’’ Rev­erend Te­vita Langi, from Oliveti’s church, said.

‘‘They were en­joy­ing the trip and laugh­ter, and it was so hard to ac­cept that after that fun mem­ory in life, she’s passed away. Ev­ery­body is hav­ing hard times ac­cept­ing what has hap­pened.’’

Oliveti is a mother to one child liv­ing in Tonga, three young boys liv­ing in Palmer­ston North, and daugh­ter Anamoala, 3, who was among those in the ve­hi­cle with her. Anamoala was taken to Ro­torua Hos­pi­tal, where she was in a stable con­di­tion.

Her hus­band Tualaki Oliveti works in Auck­land dur­ing the week and re­turns to the fam­ily in Palmer­ston North on week­ends, Langi said. Anamoala is now with him, and un­til he can join them, the boys are be­ing cared for by fam­ily.

Langi’s voice broke as he de­scribed vis­it­ing Oliveti’s Palmer­ston North house on Tues­day to break the news to her boys. Be­fore they were told what had hap­pened, they were jok­ing to­gether and hav­ing fun.

‘‘They were dev­as­tated. We spent the night with them – they are heart­bro­ken, but they have the help of other fam­ily and rel­a­tives.’’

Oliveti was a lov­ing mother and a ‘‘warm­hearted’’ woman who would go out of her way to care for peo­ple, he said.

Her hus­band is also a min­is­ter, and Meli Oliveti had wanted to join him in work­ing for the church. She was a much-loved Sun­day school teacher and was pre­par­ing to give her first ser­mon in the com­ing weeks.

Oliveti’s cousin Ana Tuivai said the sit­u­a­tion was devastating, but they were part of a huge ex­tended fam­ily and church net­work who were con­cen­trat­ing on car­ing for the chil­dren.

‘‘Sup­port­ing them [is the pri­or­ity] and I don’t know how we are going to do that. It’s so tragic and sud­den. It’s going to be a long jour­ney.’’

On Thursday, Langi was trav­el­ling to Ro­torua Hos­pi­tal to bring Oliveti’s body home.

‘‘We ask for all peo­ple to re­mem­ber us in prayers and for the other three peo­ple that died at the scene.’’

Meli Oliveti, also known as Pesi Tuivai, died in a crash near Taupo. She is from Palmer­ston North and had just got her cer­tifi­cate to be a pas­tor.

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