17 Feb 2011

Witness feared dismissal over Tonga ferry concerns

3:53 pm on 17 February 2011

A marine engineer who conducted a survey of a fatal Tonga ferry says he feared losing his job if he raised his concerns with a government minister about the vessel.

Seventy-four people drowned when the Princess Ashika sank on its fifth voyage in waters off Tonga in August 2009.

Four men have been charged with manslaughter. The Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, which bought the ferry, is also facing charges.

Onesi Tuifua surveyed the vessel soon after it arrived in Tonga and told the court in Tonga on Thursday he was upset when he found that the Ashika had departed, Radio New Zealand International reports.

Mr Tuifua said it angered him that the vessel left while there was work to be done to fix it and he voiced concern and disappointment to his senior officer, as well as fellow surveyors, but not to the Transport Minister.