The National, Tuesday April 12th, 2016
By ELIZABETH VUVU
THE long-awaited trial into the mv Rabaul Queen ferry disaster case began yesterday in the National Court in Kokopo, East New Britain, with survivors and relatives gathering as early as 8am.
However, they were blocked off by police and told not to go near the court room two where the trial was to be held.
The first day into the trial saw the two charges of manslaughter and sending or taking an unseaworthy ship out to sea dropped against chief mate Michael Zirau.
State prosecutor Paul Tusais said the state did not intend to pursue the case against him.
He said the State intended to proceed with the case against the ferry company’s Kimbe branch manager Grace Amen, charged with sending or taking an unseaworthy vessel out to sea. A manslaughter charge against her will be trialled separately.
Justice Terrence Higgins read the indictment on company owner Captain Peter Sharp and Captain Anthony Tsiau that on Feb 2, 2012, they unlawfully killed Francis Aine and 171 others.
Sharp and Tsiau pleaded not guilty to the charges of manslaughter or sending or taking an unseaworthy ship out to sea.
Defence lawyer Simon Nutley QC from Fiocco and Nutley Lawyers submitted that the number of people that perished was 88.
The court amended the number of casualties to 88 from 172. The first witness, Max Maniot, was called to testify. He gave an account of how his two sons were passengers on the ferry from Buka, how he kept in contact with them and gave an idea of the weather that day. It was windy with rough seas.
Higgins told Tusais that he would have to prove the figures without relying on hearsay.
Tusais asked for an adjournment to clarify the issues on the number of casualities. The trial adjourned to for 9.30am today.
Eight witnesses and other survivors will be called up this week to give evidence.