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Coroners inquest into Oyang 70 sinking

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New Zealand News | Monday April 16 2012 7:17

Coroners inquest into Oyang 70 sinking

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A huge haul of fish is believed to be partially to blame for the 2010 sinking of the fishing vessel Oyang 70.

On August 20th 2010 the boat had a huge haul of fish that made it tip to the port side causing water to flood into the vessel from a waste chute.

A coroners inquest is underway in Wellington into the deaths of six crew, of which only three bodies were discovered.

Detective Sergeant Michael Ford says many who saw the incident unfold had never seen anything like it before, despite being experienced fishermen.

"Witnesses state that it was the biggest haul of fish they'd ever seen. This appears to have made the release of the fish impossible despite numerous attempts by the crew members to cut the net and to hose the fish off the decking area."

Michael Ford says survivors have also noted the poor condition of the boat, as well as a lack of instruction from the captain and some issues with equipment as likely contributors to the sinking.

It sank in calm waters off the Otago coast, claiming the lives of five Indonesian men and their Korean skipper.

Mr Ford describes the Captain's orders that followed.

"Order nets to be pulled up did not work. Order nets to be dropped back into sea did not work. Ordered for the nets to be manually cut and the fish dropped into the sea, this could not be done because water was coming onto the boat."

Mr Ford says there was no subsequent abandon ship call from the captain, with the crew choosing to do so themselves.

However, many were not aware how to do so as there were no evacuation drills and few knew how to deploy lifeboats.

The incident shed light on living conditions on board such vessels.

It's believed those working on board were paid just $300 for a month's worth of work, and were only allowed to eat two fish a day.

The Indonesians were also allegedly subjected to frequent beatings on the trawler and made to work for days without rest.

Widows of the men who died in the tragedy are hoping for some form of justice this week.

Advocate for the victims' families, Daren Coulston, says the incident has had a huge effect on their lives.

"They want to know that if something has gone wrong and could've been avoided, that it would be fixed for other people who come after them but also if it's identified that people were not up to the mark that there will be some accountability."

He says because the Korean owners of the vessel have done nothing for the Indonesian families, they now rely on the help of NGOs and other charities to survive.

"They're very keen to know exactly what happened and to have their say about how they feel and to be informed as things progress."

Mr Coulston says the families have recently received compensation from ACC for the men's deaths, but the Korean owners of the vessel have refused to step up.

Photo: The Oyang 70 (supplied)

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