Banaban Voice

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Fatal crash (By Margaret Wise And Felix Chaudhary)

THREE members of an extended family are dead and a fourth is fighting for her life at Lautoka Hospital after a late-night joyride ended tragically for a group of youths.

Dead are final-year student pilot Tabuia Tanua, 25, third former Opaia Karutake, 15, and Esther Boteie, 20, a first-year trainee teacher at the Fiji National University. Dr Arun Murari of Lautoka Hospital confirmed that fifth former Eribereta Teariki, 17, was critically injured and is at the Intensive Care Unit.

He said three others ù Sioli Tanua, 18, Nabure Tanua, 15, and Nathan Eariki, 19, ù were under observation for injuries they sustained during the incident.

The lone vehicle accident at Nadovu Road, outside the city, occurred early yesterday and Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said alcohol was involved.

The National Fire Authority said their Lautoka office received an emergency call at 5.46am from the police.

Chief fire officer Tupou Saubulinayau said two victims were trapped inside the three-tonne truck. "The firefighters set about extricating the two victims by using road accident rescue equipments. Both the victims were taken to the hospital," he said.

Yesterday families of the deceased began gathering at Calcutta Street, Lautoka, still trying to come to terms with the loss.

"They were here during the day, all happy. All the boys did some work here at home and then they went to play touch rugby in the afternoon," said Obaia Tanua, Tabuia's younger brother.

"They drank a little at home and must have all gone out after midnight. It's hard to believe that some of them are now gone. Our young relatives like to follow my brother so I believe they must have just joined him when he drove out that night."

"I don't think there will be any more alcohol drinking in this house but what a harsh lesson for us ù to lose three at once is heartbreaking."

The national road death toll now stands at 37 compared to 28 for the same period last year.

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