26 Aug 2009

US church plans to replace ambulance lost in Tongan ferry sinking

12:04 pm on 26 August 2009

A California church group is hopeful of replacing the ambulance and medical supplies lost when the Princess Ashika sank in Tongan waters three weeks ago.

Dr Richard Thompson is the pastor at Bakersfield Methodist Church and was on Vava'u waiting to receive the ambulance when the accident happened.

He says the loss of so many lives for a country like Tonga is devastating and New Zealand navy images of the upturned vehicle on the ocean floor shown in the California church on Sunday got people asking what they could do.

"Our church, we're going to focus on seeing if we can't find another ambulance like this and raise the money to ship it over there. Ideally we would like to find two ambulances of that class, one for Vava'u and one for the main island of Tongatapu."

Dr Thompson, whose wife and children are Tongan, says the tragedy of human error brings home to everyone the tenuousness of life.