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Lost at sea

Mere Naleba
Monday, March 10, 2014

A FAMILY is contemplating life without a son who is believed lost at sea.

Joe Toromai and his wife Eti Benamini, of Marata Village in Wailoku, held a memorial service on Saturday for their second child Tomu Koimola, 24, who was on a foreign fishing vessel and went missing in Tahiti waters on January 9. Koimola's elder brother Andre Are Naoneata, 27, and his namesake Tomu Koimola, 34, were also on board the same vessel.

The family only came to know that their son was not returning home after Mr Naoneata and Mr Koimola arrived in Suva on March 1 on a different fishing vessel.

Mr Naoneata said the three men left Fiji on December 20 last year on the fishing vessel Lurong Yuen Yu 205, and on January 3 this year the vessel was anchored in Tahiti waters.

He said on January 9, the captain and the skipper of another vessel belonging to the same company were celebrating Chinese New Year on board and drinking alcohol with the deceased and his namesake.

Mr Naoneata said he later found out from a crew member that his brother had fallen overboard.

"I had seen some of the people who were looking for something in the water. When I asked them, they said they were looking for a buoy," Mr Naoneata said.

"No one told me that they were looking for my brother, even the captain of the boat.

"Then I asked one of the Indonesian men if they saw the two Fijian men and he said that Tomu had fallen overboard."

Mr Naoneata said the night before the incident, his brother had approached him in his room asking to use his mobile phone.

He later found it in pieces.

"I found the phone in the wheel house along with some timber, fishing gaff and maul. These things are not supposed to be there. While I was still up in the wheel house, I heard them cutting a small hole in the storeroom.

"When I asked one of the man what they were doing, they told me that the other Tomu was locked inside."

He said he called out to his cousin who told him he was attacked by three crew members who beat him up with pieces of timber until he was unconscious and locked him in the storeroom. "He told me that when he was just coming out of the storeroom."

Mr Naoneata, in front of his grieving parents and relatives, relayed the dreadful story of being transferred to another fishing vessel - Rong Dayang 17 - in order to reach Fiji.

He said until now the fishing company that's responsible had not paid them or tried to contact them.

"We have been trying to contact the man who came home to get us but his number is diverted.

"When we visited his office, the people there said he is in China," he said.

Mr Naoneata said officers from INTERPOL visited him on Monday night to take his statement.

Questions sent to the Fiji Police Force remained unanswered when this edition went to press last night.





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