10 Nov 2009

Ashika survivor testifies in Tonga ferry probe

12:35 pm on 10 November 2009

The first survivor of the Princess Ashika sinking to give evidence to the Royal Commission of Inquiry in Tonga, says passengers were given no warning of the impending disaster, which claimed more than 70 lives.

Tangimana Lemoto described seeing rust and corrosion on the vessel, and water forging through the cargo hull before it rocked intensively and sank on August the 5th.

Jo O'Brien has more

"The 25 year-old witness told the hearing the rust and corrosion he saw on the ferry made it unsuitable to sail. He said he watched for two hours as sea water came in from both sides of the bow ramp, and from underneath. He said the vessel was moving from side to side for about five hours before it sank."

Mr Lemoto said he heard reports of a lot of water in the stern and hold, and a crew member was told to pump it out about an hour before the sinking. He said the vessel was moving from side to side because of the water on the cargo deck or inside, and not because of waves. Mr Lemoto says the vessel was already seriously tilted when the captain was woken up. He says the captain issued a mayday call just before the ferry sank, but he knew of no warning or advice about lifejackets or liferafts being given to passengers, who received no help to evacuate.