2 Mar 2011

Crew member testifies in Tonga's Ashika trial

4:02 pm on 2 March 2011

A 28 year old former crew member on the Princess Ashika has told the trial in Tonga of four men facing manslaughter charges about the night the vessel sank.

Kainga Ta'ufo'ou lost his son, a toddler, in the tragedy, which claimed 74 lives.

Our reporter in Nuku'alofa, Falemaka Fihaki, reports.

"Kainga Ta'ufo'ou told the court that he'd taken his son along with him on the Ashika on a number of occasions because there was no one to take care of him. Mr Ta'ufo'ou says he woke in his cabin in the night of the disaster, took his son with him to the cargo deck, and found the Ashika had already tilted to one side, which he believes had been caused by a wave. The impact of the wave had shifted the cargo to one side and he says this is what he thinks caused the vessel to capsize. When cross examined Mr Ta'ufo'ou says the cargo shifted because the ropes that had secured it broke when the Ashika tilted. He added that he had given his son to the vessel's purser while he and other crew tried to bail out the bilge, when suddenly the vessel capsized. Asked whether he would've been able to save his son, a tearful Mr Ta'ufo'ou told the court, no because it all happened so suddenly, and when he surfaced the Ashika had gone down and it was all dark."