7 Mar 2011

Ashika crewmember tells Tonga court about ship's inadequacies

4:24 pm on 7 March 2011

A crew member on the Tonga interisland ferry, the Princess Ashika, on the night it sank, has told a trial in Nuku'alofa that he woke to find his shoes floating in his cabin about four hours before the disaster occurred.

Four men are facing charges of manslaughter by negligence over the sinking of the vessel, which claimed 74 lives.

Falemaka Fihaki reports from Tonga.

"24 year old, Penisimani Tupou says the water in the cabin had leaked from the mess room above. He told the court it was obvious the vessel was old because of the tremendous amount of rust and corrosion, and he says the steering wasn't functioning properly. Mr Tupou says when the wheel was turned it took some time before the vessel responded. He says the crew also had to use the stern ramp most of the time for loading cargo because the bow ramp couldn't be opened. Mr Tupou also made reference to a large hole found in the hull after the first voyage made by the Ashika after it'd arrived from Fiji."