Tarawera crash: Father of five identified as seasonal worker killed on SH5

He came to New Zealand to help build a better life and future for his wife and young children.

But it was in the land of opportunity where Tino Tagiilima

would lose his life – and with it the hopes of family waiting for him in Samoa.

The father-of-five, in his 30s, has been identified as the man killed in Monday’s

tragic crash on State Highway 5, near Tarawera.

Friends and family have paid tribute to a man who was proud to be a husband and father to his children – the youngest still a baby, friend and workmate Daniel Nafoitoa Ulale said.

“Tino was a family man. He was gentle and respectful, the bro was,” Ulale said.

Emergency services were called to the scene about 9.50am after reports a truck had crashed into a van outside the Tarawera Cafe.

Three vans full of mostly Samoan nationals, in New Zealand under the recognised seasonal employer scheme, were on their way to Taupō for a holiday when they turned right into the cafe.

The first two vans turned into the cafe carpark without incident. However, for some reason, the third van briefly pulled over to the left side of the road.

It was when the van turned to go right – into the cafe carpark – that it was struck by a truck travelling from behind.

The collision sent the truck down a nearby bank – taking a large chunk of the road’s barrier with it – and resulted in 10 people being injured, two critically, in the van and killing Tagiilima.

'This is difficult … for we are one less'

Ulale described the harrowing moments that followed; after those in the vans at the cafe carpark saw what had happened.

“We thought it was just the truck – but then we saw it had smashed into the van,” he said.

“We all ran over to help. There were a couple of boys stuck in the van and we were working to get them out.”

Not long after helping to get their workmates out of the vehicle, news from the front came that someone had died.

“We just heard someone say Tino had died. Just shocked,” he said.

Tagiilima had been sitting in the front

passenger seat

when the crash happened.

Other friends and colleagues have revealed he was a team leader for the company he worked for and had been in New Zealand for eight years working under the RSE scheme to help his family back home

.

Workers have been told that those injured have improved in the last 24 hours; apart from the driver, one told the Herald.

Several of the injured have taken to Facebook to thank friends and family in Samoa for their prayers and messages since the crash.

One man wrote in Samoa: “Thankful to God for protecting us and thankful to our families, parents, wives and children who have been praying for us – we feel that warmth.

“But this is a difficult time for us because we are one less – a warrior among our workmen and our leader, Tino Tagiilima.

“We’ll never forget your respectful ways. Rest in peace, brother.”

Police say they continue to investigate the circumstances of the crash.

Another friend said of Tagiilima: “I’ll never forget you, brother.”

The crash comes almost two months after another seasonal worker from Samoa, Selesele Vaetasi Mati Asiata, 36, was killed in a similar crash in late August.

The father-of-one was a passenger in a van full of workers heading home after a day’s work when they crashed on SH2 in the Bay of Plenty.

In that crash, a 35-year-old man was later charged with careless or inconsiderate vehicle operation causing death.

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