Kiwi lawyer to represent families of Kiribati ferry disaster victims

Source: 1News

An Auckland lawyer representing families of victims from Kiribati’s worst ferry disaster a year ago is planning to take the island nation’s Government to court.

Around a hundred people died when the MV Butiraoi sank last January and so far no information about the cause has been forthcoming.

Teatiia Tiroia lost seven family members when the MV Butiraoi sank, both parents, his sister, her two young children and his older brother’s two teenagers.

"We are devastated. We used to be very happy together but since we lost everyone things are not the same," he says.

The ferry was meant to take a couple of days to travel from Nunouti to the main island Tarawa.

But there were only seven survivors – found by the New Zealand Airforce ten days after the catamaran set sail.

A year on and there’s no official explanation.

Now, a group representing the victim’s families has asked an Auckland senior counsel to take its case.

"The first step is really to take the government to task for not releasing the report and that would be seeking a high court injunction in Kiribati to force them to release it," says Kahungunu Barron-Afeaki S.C.

New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission helped with the inquiry and our government has put millions into maritime safety.

But so sensitive is the topic, the New Zealand Government's not asking too many questions.

"Sometimes a sensitive issue is best to be left alone. It doesn’t mean that we are not paying attention but it grates a bit," says Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters.