15 Dec 2009

Tonga ferry inquiry hears trapped passengers were shouting

10:07 am on 15 December 2009

The officer on watch the night the Princess Ashika ferry sank has told an inquiry in Tonga that women and children were trapped inside the enclosed passengers cabin shouting and crying out.

Filipe Tau'ataina told the Royal Commission investigating the disaster that killed 74 people, he saw trapped passengers, a minute before the vessel sank before midnight.

He said at 8:30 in the evening watchers reported to him that water was inside the crew accommodation, but he admitted he was not very concerned because it had happened during earlier voyages.

The Matangi Tonga newsite quotes the witness as saying that at 10:30pm he noticed the vessel tilting to the starboard side and that continued for an hour while crew tried to bail out water from the cargo deck.

He said it was about two minutes before the vessel sank that the captain instructed him to call everyone to come up to the master station on the bridge deck