Trauma from losses exposed


MOST passengers who boarded the ill-fated Rabaul Queen from Bougainville, Kimbe and Rabaul were teachers and students returning to school when the ferry sank on Feb 2, 2012.
Since the ferry trial started against owner Peter Sharp and his captain Anthony Tsiau began in April, a number of primary school teachers and students testified about what they and their families encountered during that journey.
The trial heard that some students who survived the mishap had to withdraw from studies and some teachers were no longer teaching due to trauma they were experiencing in losing their loved ones.
The trial also heard in some testimonies that most of those teachers and students were forced to travel on the ship as there were delays by the Education Department in arranging their leave entitlements.
Survivor Gwen Mathew, 44 and from Karkar in Madang, a mother of two and currently teaching at Laheri Primary School in Kimbe, is no exception.
She was the only witness who testified yesterday.
On Feb 1, 2012, Mathew and her nine-year-old son Tawari boarded the ship in Kimbe bound for Lae.
She described the weather on that day as “very windy, raining heavily and rough seas”.
Mathew read and pointed out maps in the witness box but when she was asked if she had seen her son since, she wept and shook her head, indicating negative.
She recalled young Tawari was asleep on her lap when they were sitting against their cargo in Susu Mama’s cabin.
“Tawari had been vomiting the night before and was tired and asleep on my lap when the waves hit, causing the ship to sink,” she said.
Mathew said there was no time to react as she was thrown around with the cargo and her son was separated.
She managed to wade through a gap and was thrown out into the open sea. Upon resurfacing, she swam towards two life rafts and hung onto one until she eventually managed to climb onto it.
The trial continues today.

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