PNG Ferry Trial Hears That There Was No Safety Equipment On Board The Rabaul Queen

State witness testifies that vessel was overcrowded

By Adam Mera

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 10, 2017) – Safety equipment were non-existent on the vessel the night the Rabaul Queen sank in the waters of Morobe Province on February 2, 2012, claiming more than 170 lives.

A State witness Elvin Lunagau said this during the trial of the owner of the ship, Peter Sharp.

Mr Sharp and Peter Tsiau, the captain of the vessel the night it sank, are facing several charges of manslaughter before the Kokopo National Court in East New Britain Province. Mr Lunagau told the court that the vessel had no life jackets on board when it left Kimbe wharf in West New Britain Province.

He is the first of more than 10 witnesses who will be giving evidence in the first week of the trial.

He told the court that passengers were also denied a brief on safety procedures before the ship left the Kimbe Wharf in West New Britain.

Mr Lunagau gave evidence that the ship was overloaded, making it impossible for passengers in the lower decks to escape when it started sinking. He told the court that the sea was already very rough when the ship left Kimbe Wharf, and that it got rougher as soon as the vessel reached Bulu Point in West New Britain.

Mr Lunagau said there was very little time for those trapped in the lower decks to escape, because from the moment water started pouring into the decks, it took only minutes for the ship to sink.

A commission of inquiry in the sinking of the ship revealed that most of those who died as a result of the Rabaul Queen disaster were trapped in the lower deck of the ship.

More technical witnesses will be called to the witness stand in the second week.

PNG Post-Courier
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