10 Nov 2009

First survivor of Princess Ashika sinking gives testimony to inquiry

11:45 am on 10 November 2009

The first survivor of the Princess Ashika sinking to give testimony to the Royal Commission in Tonga, has spoken of water forging through the cargo hull causing vehicles to move below deck.

Matangi Tonga reports Tangimana Lemoto told the hearing the ferry then rocked intensively from side to side before sinking on August the 5th.

The assisting Counsel to the Commission, Manuel Varitimos, restructured the appearances of his witnesses after the inquiry was adjourned on Friday, because John Jonesse needed to find new counsel following his suspension from the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia.

The 25 year-old witness from Tongatapu said he noticed work had been done to chip away corrosion on the Princess Ashika, there was rust and corrosion at the front, and the port side was swelling with rust which was painted over.

He said seawater was coming in, hitting the cargo below deck.

He agreed the intense rocking of the vessel was not just caused by waves, but because the vessel was taking in water.

The witness said he was not aware of any loudspeaker warning to passengers, nor was any safety information given regarding lifejackets or liferafts.