10 Mar 2011

Victim's brother testifies in Tonga's Ashika trial

4:13 pm on 10 March 2011

Pita Taufa, the brother of a young mother who drowned in the Princess Ashika disaster, has been giving evidence on the 18th day of a manslaughter trial in Tonga.

The body of Vae Fetu'u Taufa was one of just two recovered after the ferry sank near Ha'apai in August 2009.

Falemake Fihaki reports from Nuku'alofa.

"Pita Taufa told the court he heard of the sinking on the morning of August 6th. He went to the shipping company's office for confirmation and found that his sister's name wasn't on the list of survivors. Mr Taufa said later that day he heard two bodies had been found and were at the Vaiola Hospital morgue and so went there with his wife to see. Mr Taufa was able to confirm one of the bodies was that of his sister, Vae. Mr Taufa said a statement from Dr Siale 'Akau'ola indicated two injuries found on his sister's body showed Vae had struggled on the vessel before she died of drowning. The lawyer for one of the defendants, the former acting director of marine, Peau Pifeleti, suggested to Mr Taufa that his sister hadn't died in the sinking. But Mr Taufa told the court his sister knew how to swim and had no illnesses."