The Bethlehem College student who was driving the mini-van that crashed killing four people in Kenya is believed to have been driving illegally.
The Herald on Sunday reported 18-year-old David Fellows, who holds a full New Zealand driver’s licence, was not permitted under Kenyan traffic law to drive the HiAce mini-van known as a ‘matatu’ when it crashed and rolled on a Kenyan highway.
David Fellows (centre white t-shirt) with other volunteers on their return from Kenya.
Tauranga anesthetist Brian Johnston and his wife Grace, along with 19-year-old Caitlin Dickson and Kenyan man Christopher Mmata were killed in the crash.
Kenyan law prohibits anyone under the age of 24 from driving mini-buses, and in addition any drivers of ‘matatus’ must have a commercial licence for cars or commercial vehicles for four years or more.
A matatu is defined as a public service vehicle with seating for up to 25 passengers.
Under Kenyan law, it is an offence for a non-designated person to drive a public service vehicle, including a taxi, school van, bus, mini-bus and tour van, or for other people to allow such a person to drive.
The Toyota HiAce David was driving had 14-16 people on board at the time of the fatal crash, and had been donated to the Kenyan Ark Quest Academy by the college.
Bethlehem College confirmed last week that David was the driver of the van when it crashed on January 15 not the Kenyan man Christopher Mmata who was earlier believed to be driving.
Bethlehem College Principal earlier said it was a pre-arranged swap between Christopher and David.
The supposition that David was urged to keep quiet about his driving until he was out of the country, has since been denied in other media by Ark Quest Academy founder, Calvine Ominde.
He believed his friend Christopher Mmata was driving. Christopher was the last one he had seen driving, and his body was near the driver’s door after the accident.
David returned to New Zealand on January 21 along with other survivors. School authorities say they were not told about the driver swap until Saturday, January 26 after the funeral for the Johnstons.
The families were told last Monday and the public on Tuesday, after the Auckland Anniversary weekend.
New Zealand Police have informed Kenyan authorities through Interpol. Kenya is also a Commonwealth country and extradition is possible – but first David Fellows will have to be charged with an offence by the Kenyan police.
The school’s Board of Trustees has also launched an investigation.