26 Jul 2009

Fatal ferry accident to be investigated

5:43 am on 26 July 2009

New Zealand officials are investigating a ferry accident in Kiribati in which about 40 people are believed to have died.

About 55 people were onboard the outrigger canoe when it capsized on 13 July en route from Tarawa to Maiana.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission in Wellington has begun an inquiry, at the request of the Kiribati Government.

The craft, which was about 15 metres long, was typical of canoes used regularly to travel between the islands.

An investigation team will travel to Kiribati on Tuesday. It will be there for about a week.

The commission says the inquiry will take six months to a year to complete.

Police Maritime Commander John Mote said this week that many lessons have been learnt from the tragedy.

He said it was "a big signal" for everyone, especially boat owners and operators and the marine authority, to be more strict on compliance and for police to enforce the regulations.

A joint church service was held at the Kiribati National Church on Friday evening to remember those who died.