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Image Gallery: August 2009

08 August 2009
Tongan Ferry 'Princess Ashika' search and support mission

Australian Navy clearance divers have deployed to Tonga to help recover bodies from the sunken ferry ‘Princess Ashika’.

Sixteen RAN personnel landed in the Pacific kingdom at 5am local time on Saturday 8 August after flying from Richmond RAAF base aboard a C-130J Hercules the previous night.

The short notice deployment resulted from an official request from the Government of Tonga for Australian assistance in recovery operations.

The divers from Australian Clearance Diving Team One will work with a diving team from the Royal New Zealand Navy in support of the Tongan Defence Service.

A joint diving reconnaissance mission aboard the Tongan patrol boat VOEA Pangai was launched on Saturday afternoon from His Majesty’s Navy Base Masefield (Touliki). The reconnaissance of the dive site is the precursor to any recovery operation.

The exact location of the ferry is unkown, although a search area has been established.

The Princess Ashika sunk on Wednesday night during a regular weekly service, carrying 141 people aboard.

A Tongan patrol boat recovered two bodies and 54 survivors, including 28 crew members from the ferry. Eighty five people remain unaccounted for.

The sinking of Princess Ashika is Tonga’s worst ferry disaster since December 1977 when the boat ‘Tokomea’ disappeared with 63 people on board.