APIA, SAMOA – 24 AUGUST 2020: A car accident yesterday evening at Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand has left one Samoan seasonal worker dead and four injured.
The Samoa Seasonal Workers Director, Lemalu Nele Leilua confirmed with Talamua that the deceased is Vaetasi Asiata from Satupa’itea village and has been in the seasonal workers program for the past 3 years.
Lemalu explained the accident happened on the motorway as the workers returned to camp after a long day’s work.
Because it’s a long drive the driver who is the team leader and all the passengers fell asleep on the way, she said.
Scheduled to return to Samoa this week
All five workers were scheduled to return to Samoa on the repatriation flight from New Zealand this Friday, 28 August 2020.
But with injuries sustained from the accident, Lemalu is not sure whether they are fit to travel.
Asked if the body of Vaetasi will be on the flight she said a post mortem need to be conducted and other things to be finalised.
According to Lemalu the original team of 10 arrived in New Zealand in November 2019 and should return home in June 2020.
Whilst some of them are already back home, the 5 who were involved in the accident opted to extend their stay and rescheduled to return on the direct flight bringing only seasonal workers on the 31 July 2020.
However, that flight is rescheduled to arrive on Friday this week. With injuries from the accident, Lemalu said it’s too early to assume if the 4 members of the team will be on that flight.
Unfamiliar with Tauranga roads
Lemalu said the team was originally stationed at Hawkes Bay for apple picking and was transferred to Bay of Plenty for the kiwifruit season, and are not familiar with the roads in Tauranga.
Lemalu said there it is quite a distance between the farm and the camp and she believes the accident happened due to exhaustion and not alcohol related.
Currently there are 200 plus Samoan seasonal workers in New Zealand.