Bus company Ritchies fined for fatal Christmas Eve crash in 2016

Emergency services at the scene of the bus crash in 2016. - Photo: Facebook / Tonganow

Bus company Ritchies has been fined $210,000 over the 2016 Christmas Eve bus crash that killed three people from Tonga.

The bus had been carrying 53 people from Tonga's Mailefihi Siu'ilikutapu College brass band when it plunged down a bank near Gisborne at about 10.30pm.

Sione Taumalolo, 11, and Talita Moimoi, 33, died at the scene.

Leotisia Malakai, 55, died eight days later in hospital.

Ritchies had earlier pleaded guilty to a charge laid by WorkSafe of failing to ensure the health and safety of other people was not put at risk.

At sentencing in the Waitakere District Court this morning, as well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay reparations totalling $750,000 to the families of those killed and the injured.

Some of those injured in the crash gave victim impact statements in court earlier this month.

They said they were still angry about what happened and had recurring nightmares.

Mr Lokotui, who was the school's head boy, had been sleeping in the aisle of the bus because there were not enough seats. Then he heard screaming.

"I remember waking up in the bus after the crash, I managed to cut myself out ... and I was just sitting there by a tree in shock," he said.

"I was staring up into space just trying to recollect what had happened. I realised ... when I looked at my leg that it had been damaged."

Doctors eventually had to amputate his left leg just above his knee. Mr Lokotui said it had completely changed his life.

"I had a lot of goals and dreams for the future but after the accident I can't pursue those dreams anymore - especially my love for rugby," he said.

He has had to stay with family in Māngere since the crash because he needs ongoing treatment. Now 21, Mr Lokotui wonders when he will be able to return home to Tonga for good.

"I now don't have any bad feelings [towards] the driver of the bus, I understand there were issues with the bus but the driver should have stopped and asked for help," he said.

The bus driver, Talakai Aholelei, was sentenced last year to five-and-a-half months home detention and had to pay $36,000 in reparations.

Saunaleva Hehepoto was also on the bus that night and said she had ongoing nightmares about what happened.

"Sometimes I jump up screaming and my husband keeps asking me what happened," she said.

At one point during the sentencing, the 66-year-old became so emotional she had to pause before reading on. Ms Hehepoto said she cried a lot about the crash.

"I always feel sad for myself and what happened. [I also] feel sad for those who have lost their lives ... and left behind their families," she said.