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Jonesse headed company that operated Ashika

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 19, 2011) - A New Zealander is among four people to stand trial in Tonga next month in relation to the deaths of 74 people on the ferry Princess Ashika in 2009, Pacnews reported.

The Nuku'alofa Supreme Court set February 7 as the opening of the jury trial for the four facing manslaughter charges.

The 37-year-old Princess Ashika sank on August 5, 2009, north of Tongatapu. All the women and children aboard died. The ferry was operated by the government-owned Shipping Corporation of Polynesia (SCP) whose chief executive officer Christchurch businessman John Jonesse, would go on trial.

Ferry captain Makahokovalu Tuputupu, first mate Semisi Pomale and former Ministry of Transportation director Viliami Tu'ipulotu face a charge of manslaughter by negligence, in relation to the death of 21-year-old Vae Fetu'u Taufa whose body was one of only two recovered in the tragedy.

Tuputupu, Tu'ipulotu, Jonesse and the SCP were charged with five counts each of sending an unseaworthy ship to sea for the five voyages Princess Ashika took before finally sinking.

Tuputupu and the SCP were also charged for lacking a valid safety certificate, a load line certificate and additional safety documentation for the ferry.

Jonesse faces additional charges of forgery and knowingly dealing with a forged document.

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