17 May 2010

First death certificates for bodies not recovered after Tonga ferry disaster

7:41 pm on 17 May 2010

Families of the victims of Tonga's Princess Ashika disaster will now be able to pursue legal action after the issuing of the first two death certificates for those whose bodies have never been recovered.

The Chief Justice, Anthony Ford, issued certificates for Fetaulaki Mahe and his three-year old son Filimone last Friday.

The body of Vaifetu'u Mahe, the family's wife and mother, was one of the two recovered after the sinking which claimed 74 lives.

Lawyer Ralph Stephenson applied for the declaration and says if there's sufficient evidence the court can make a decision despite the lack of bodies.

He says the declaration helps give closure and allows a legal process to be put in train.

"Such as any claims on life insurance policies, inheritance rights as to land which is quite important in Tonga, bank accounts. That sort of thing can now be properly managed by the family."

Tonga lawyer, Ralph Stephenson, who says he is offering his services, at no cost to help other families seeking certification of death.