The man behind the wheel of a bus that crashed near Gisborne on Christmas Eve, killing three people, has pleaded not guilty to careless driving charges.
Talakai Aholelei, 65, was arrested in Auckland in April and charged with three counts of careless driving causing death and 27 counts of careless driving causing injury.
Aholelei’s pleas were entered in the Manukau District Court today in front of a gallery filled with supporters.
The bus, carrying a school brass band from Tonga to a Christmas Day concert at Gisborne’s Wesleyan Methodist Church, crashed down a steep embankment on State highway 2, 30km south of Gisborne, on Christmas Eve.
Tongan citizens Sione Taumololo, 11, and Talita Fifita, 33, died in the crash and Leotisia Malakai, 55, died later in Waikato Hospital.
There were 53 people on board.