Church and family ‘heartbroken’ after crash
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.