British Man Daniel Macmillan Died In Ferry Sinking

It’s been announced that a British man Daniel Macmillan, age 47, was one of the people to have died when the Tongan Ferry Princess Ashika sank overnight, Mr Macmillan was said to have been carrying a NZ driving licence.

33 people, mostly women and children are also thought to have lost their lives in the tragedy. More here: Tonga Ferry capsizes

The Tongan minister of transport, Paul Karalus, resigned a week after the disaster. His ministry is now under investigation by the Royal Commission. He said that his resignation was not an admission of guilt and that the Princess Ashika was seaworthy but this contradicts statements made by shipping owner and MP ‘Uliti Uata who said that the ferry was leaking:

Princess Ashika was leaking hours before it capsized, with crew using buckets to bail out water because pumps failed to work, it is claimed.

MP and ship owner ‘Uliti Uata said the inter-island ferry had begun leaking on its cargo deck soon after it left Nuku’alofa last Wednesday and should have returned to port.

Mr Uata, whose company runs rival ferry MV Pulupaki, said he had inspected Princess Ashika while it was drydocked in Suva, Fiji, just before it went to Tonga.

He said the hull was holed and welds over thin steel plates were not holding. Workers had filled the holes with cement, he said.

He also believes the ship was not suited to sea journeys. “It is a very awful ship, it is designed to operate on smooth water,” Mr Uata said. “I believed they had pumps but the pumps did not work properly. The water started to fill up the cargo deck … They used buckets to try and get the water out …

“They [the crew] should have come back immediately as soon as they found there was a leak, or go to the nearest port. To me as a ship owner, this was not an accident.”

Pulupaki left Nuku’alofa an hour before Princess Ashika on the night it sank. When a distress call was made Pulupaki turned around and plucked most of the surviving passengers from the sea. Mr Uata said sea conditions were normal……”

The ship’s captain also had his concerns about the condition of the vessel:

The allegations follow claims by the skipper of the Princess Ashika, who said the ferry was unseaworthy and the Tongan government knew there were problems with it.
But the claims of captain Maka Tuputupu and others about the ferry’s seaworthiness have been denied by Tonga’s Transport Minister Paul Karalus.
Mr Tuputupu said the waves were less than one metre high when the ship sank.
He was on the bridge making mayday calls and was the last person off the ship. “Water was up around my head. It rolled over when I was still on the bridge.”
He managed to find a hatch and swam several metres to the surface.
He said he was under pressure to sail even though he feared for the ship’s seaworthiness.
The Tongan government should take responsibility for the disaster as it knew there were problems with the ship, he said. The Princess Ashika was bought by the government-owned Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, from Fiji just two months earlier.
The MV Pulupaki was the first ship to arrive at the scene of the sinking and pulled survivors from the water. Its owner, Tu’i Uata, said the Princess Ashika “was in bad shape”, Radio New Zealand reported.
Workers trying to take rust out of it when it first arrived in Tonga were able to punch their hammers through the hull of the lower deck, he said.
Many community leaders have also claimed the ferry had a poor reputation in Fiji and was to be sold for scrap metal……” full report here

Prime minister of NZ, John Key, has offered help to Tonga with finding a new ferry.

One of the passengers, Viliami Latu Mohenoa who had been travelling on the open deck had his account of the sinking published in WAToday:

“Mohenoa said that after watching a video he went outside at about 11pm (2000 AEST) and saw crewmen bailing water from a lower deck where the ship’s engine was housed and the cargo stored.

The buckets were small and crew could not keep up with the incoming water, he said.

“Then suddenly a wave one metre high came and hauled all the cargo, vehicles and forklifts to one side, causing the ferry to overturn and sink instantly,” Mohenoa said.

“Me and my co-worker Pau Tupou were very lucky because we were out on the open deck and were able to jump.

“The ferry sunk so quickly that no one was able to do anything.

“And I think the passengers inside just couldn’t make it out in time because the ferry just overturned and sank so quickly, in a minute.”

By the time he had reached the nearest life raft and turned around to look, the Princess Ashika was gone.

“No one was able to make it out apart from us men. No woman or child made it. It was an unbelievable experience because we just never expected that the ferry would sink.”

5 thoughts on “British Man Daniel Macmillan Died In Ferry Sinking

  1. We're hoping for a thorough inquiry into the incident. There are questions about the ferry's seaworthiness which would've been answered had it been salvaged, unfortunately it looks as if that is not going to happen because of the high costs involved.

    Last we heard the Tongan Royal Commission and the New Zealand Accident Investigation Commisison were working together on the inquiry. We'll be waiting for their report to come out and will comment on it.

    Daniel sounds like a wonderful person, he must be sorely missed by everyone who knew him. May he rest in peace.

  2. Thank you too for that follow up. If anybody is interested Danny Macmillan was a popular and well respected man whose death came as a great shock to many people, not only of course in his native Islay but also in his adopted antipodean home. He was one of those people that nobody could dislike. Many a tear has been shed on hearing the news of his drowning.

    On the wider topic of the sinking, the talk among those with first hand experience of the ferry is that it was an accident waiting to happen, a thirty-five year old rust bucket. That though is something the Tongan king, government, judiciary and any enquiry will need to address. It appears that the finger of blame was initially being pointed at the ferry company owners, although the talk is that the blame for this tragedy should go further and deeper. Perhaps heads in high places will role.

    It may seem strange to many people that most of the men survived but the women and children did not. This is simply because the men were on a higher deck and had a chance to get out whereas the women and children were asleep on a lower deck and so had no chance in the short time it took the ferry to go under.

  3. Thank you for that, media reports varied so much, some placed him in the country for around 20 years. We thought it unusual for someone to have been in NZ for so long and not to have PR. As you say thousands of people still New Zealanders and also hold UK citizenship

    The sinking was an absolute tragedy. In addition to Mr Macmillan and the Tongan nationals (many of them women and children) that were on the ferry German, French and Japanese people were also said to have perished.

    Our sincere condolences go out to all of their families and friends, it was a terrible waste of life.

  4. Most media reports are shy of the mark. Danny Macmillan was not a traveller in the usual sense of the word. Although he still held UK citizenship he was, like tens of thousands of people in NZ, a NZ permanent resident and effectively a New Zealander. He had lived in NZ since about 1991 and in the same house in Christchurch for about nine years.

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