Ferry overloaded, says PNG witness

Survivors float in inflatable rafts after the Rabaul Queen went down. [AAP: Gorothy Kenneth]
PHOTO

Survivors float in inflatable rafts after the Rabaul Queen went down. [AAP: Gorothy Kenneth]

Last Updated: Thu, 12 Apr 2012 15:48:00 +1000

A survivor of a ferry disaster that killed at least 100 people in Papua New Guinea has told an inquiry the ship was overloaded.

George Turmi was the first witness at the commission of inquiry that is examining the sinking of the Rabaul Queen in February.

Authorities say the ferry was licensed to carry 310 passengers.

But the 20-year-old student estimates there were about 500 people on board as it left Kimbe for Lae.

Captain Peter Sharp, the managing director and major shareholder of Rabaul Shipping, the operator of the Rabaul Queen, has told the inquiry there were 350 people on board when it went down and, as far as he knew, that was the most it had ever carried.

Captain Sharp said it usually carried around 300 passengers during peak periods.

He said the ferry had traveled the same route for more than a decade and the crew was reasonably trained.

The inquiry is trying to determine the exact number of victims and their identities.

Rough seas


Estimates of the death toll from different state agencies range from 100 to more than 200.

George Turmi has told the inquiry it capsized after being hit by large waves in rough seas.

Mr Turmi said the crew did not give passengers any guidance during the emergency.

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