11 Feb 2011

Tuvalu police say men died on fishing vessel before help could reach them

2:30 pm on 11 February 2011

The police in Tuvalu say preparations were made to send a boat to help injured crew members of a fishing trawler, the Betty C, but the vessel was too far away.

The police were asked by Fiji Maritime search and rescue to provide medical assistance to two men who subsequently died following the collapse of a power block on top of them.

A constable, Siose Fagatoa, says police located the vessel which was heading towards Tuvalu and were preparing to send a boat to help, until they were told the men had died.

"We were prepared for that but it was taking a day so we decided to wait until it was coming close then we'd try to assist. Then later, they gave us a call again that the ship was heading to Pago Pago because the persons had passed away, that's why it was no use to come to our waters."

A Tuvalu police officer, Siose Fagatoa.

An agent for the owners of the vessel had earlier claimed the crew's call for help had been denied.

However the US Coast Guard in Honolulu, which received the call for assistance, says it referred the matter to Fiji Maritime search and rescue, which then passed it on to Tuvalu.