By ELIZABETH VUVU
CAPTAIN Peter Sharp and the master of the mv Rabaul Queen ferry Anthony Tsiau have been acquitted of manslaughter charges by the National Court in Kokopo.
This follows a no-case submission made by Sharp’s lawyer David Cooper and Tsiau’s lawyer Philip Kaluwin last Tuesday.
The duo were charged with manslaughter for alleged criminal negligence resulting in the death of 140 people travelling on the vessel on Feb 2, 2012 under the command of Tsiau when it capsized and sank at around 6am off Finschhafen in Morobe.
Cooper submitted that the State had failed to prove that there was any risk associated with the normal use of the mv Rabaul Queen after it had left Kimbe Port which Sharp should have foreseen and which should have caused him to act in a certain way to prevent that risk and his failure to do so caused the loss of life.
Cooper said the State has not made out any case of criminal negligence.
Kaluwin said there was no evidence to suggest that it was the negligent action of Tsiau that caused the ship to sink.
Kaluwin said evidence did not come close to confirming Tsiau’s negligence because most of the evidence from the survivors spoke of their own experiences when the ship went down rather than any adverse actions by Tsiau.
He said most of the evidence spoke of a natural phenomenon – the three waves.
He said there was no overcrowding and passengers were clustered in places while leaving other areas clear.
The weather was fine when the ship departed its last port.
Justice Terrence Higgins in his ruling said there was 20 seconds during which the ship was unexpectedly and significantly pitched to starboard, not once but twice before the third wave struck capsizing the vessel.
“To assume that emergency assemblies or distribution of life-jackets or even access if not impeded could have led to putting on life-jackets is to my mind, fanciful,” Higgins said.
He said not even Tsiau had time to locate and put on a life jackets as he was in the wheelhouse.
Sharp, Tsiau, Kimbe branch manager Grace Amen and chief mate Michael Zirau still face charges of sending or taking an unseaworthy vessel out to sea.
State prosecutor, Paul Bannister said the trial on this charge would be listed before the National Court next week with witnesses to be confirmed.
The State called 130 witnesses from around the country and tendered 105 exhibits.
By ELIZABETH VUVU