13 Nov 2009

Passenger tells Ashika Commission he asked Captain to turn back

6:44 pm on 13 November 2009

In Tonga a passenger on the Princess Ashika has told the Royal Commission investigating the ferry's sinking that he told the captain to turn back to Nukualofa.

Tevita Lotaki Kanongata'a, whose wife and daughter died in the sinking, told the Commission that he knew within minutes of being on board that the vessel was in a very bad condition.

Jenny Meyer has more.

"Mr Kanongata'a told the commission that while he had initially thought the Princess Ashika was beautiful from the outside, on boarding he saw that it was corroded and he didn't think it should sail. He says he went to the cargo hold several times during the journey and saw water entering the hold. Mr Kanongata'a was encouraged by other passengers to speak to the ship's captain, which he did, about an hour and a half before the sinking. He asked the captain to return to Nukualofa because he feared for the children on board. The captain replied that he had seen the cargo hold and crew members had told him what was happening. Mr Kanongata'a says the captain told him that if the vessel was taking on too much water he would stop it from sinking by running it on to a reef when they reached Ha'apai."