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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 2) - A U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, Tessa Horan (24), died in Vava'u yesterday evening, February 1, after losing a leg in a tragic shark attack in the waters off of the village of Tu'anuku.

[PIR editor’s note: Vava’u is the northernmost island group in Tonga.]

Pesalili Kailahi, the Neiafu Police Commander, said that the attack took place around 6 p.m. but the police were not notified until about 8 p.m.

He said that Tessa, from New Mexico, was one of a new group of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers to arrive in Tonga, and she had just settled in to the village of Tu'anuku on January 18 where she joined the village youth in games of netball and soccer every afternoon, which always ended with a swim off the village jetty.

Pesalili said that Tessa was said to have taken a liking to swimming out into the deep main waterway at the entrance of the Neiafu harbor. After a game of soccer yesterday afternoon, the youth were all muddy because it had been raining in Vava'u and they went down to the jetty to cool off.

Pesalili said that the inter-island ferry the MV Pulupaki had just motored past on its way to Tongatapu, and Tessa and a Tongan youth swam out into the deep water. When they stopped for a breath Tessa was pulled down. Her companion noticed the submerging fin of a big fish, which he thought to be a shark, and a while later Tessa emerged saying that she was wounded and there was blood all around them. They swam back screaming for help, but Tessa died soon after they reached the shore. Pesalili said that the attack took her right leg from the thigh down.

Fatal shark attacks are rare in Tonga.

Tessa’s body was flown back to the capital Nuku'alofa today, and received by mourning Peace Corps volunteers.

February 3, 2006

Matangi Tonga:

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