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'She was like a sister' - friend of Taupo car crash victim gives emotional interview as a community mourns

A close friend of a woman who was killed with three others in a car crash near Taupo yesterday has opened up to 1 NEWS in an emotional interview.

Pesi Tuivai, 44, was one of the victims of the car crash which also left eight people injured, including a ten-month old baby who is in Starship Children's Hospital.

New details have emerged of the horrific crash which killed four people yesterday. Source: 1 NEWS

Olivia Halaifonua says Ms Tuivai was married to her cousin and was like a "sister to her".

Speaking from Pesi Tuivai's hometown of Palmerston North, Ms Halaifonua said she and her friend were part of a convoy of 11 cars that had travelled up to Auckland for a church conference at the weekend.

At the conference Ms Tuivai was blessed to be able to preach.

"They were the last in the convoy to travel home, they had children in the car so they wanted to wait until daylight to come home," Ms Halaifonua said.

While Pesi Tuivai's three-year-old daughter was travelling in the car with her, her three sons remained at home in Palmerston North.

"We had to break the news to them once we had confirmation from the police in Rotorua that Pesi was dead, my father, who's the elder in the family, gathered everybody in and broke the news to Pesi's sons," Ms Halaifonua said.

The Serious Crash Unit is investigating the fatal incident, while Road Policing Manager Steve Greally says more people are failing to wear a seat belt. Source: 1 NEWS

The rest of the family are now supporting the boys at the family home, while Ms Tuivai's three-year-old daughter remains in Rotorua Hospital in a stable condition.

Ms Halaifonua has fond memories of her friend, who worked as a reliever at a Palmerston North daycare centre with her.

"She would always laugh whenever she would see you, she was happy and she loved her children, her youngest son is in the under 11 Manawatu rugby under 11s and Pesi was his number one supporter she would never miss a game."

The family are meeting every night awaiting confirmation of when Ms Tuivai's body will be released so they can plan funeral arrangements.

Ms Halaifonua says they plan on having the funeral in Palmerston North, not Ms Tuivai's native island of Tonga.

Ms Tuivai had been in the country on a work visa, that was in its second year.

Ms Halaifonua said that Ms Tuivai felt blessed that her family could join her in New Zealand and embark on a new life together.

Pesi Tuivai was killed in the horrific crash on her way back from being blessed at an Auckland church event. Source: 1 NEWS