Owner of Kiribati ferry which sank, killing 90, being investigated

Police have seized maintenance records and the passport of the owner of the Kiribati ferry which sank, claiming the lives of more than 90 people.

The vessels owner says he accepts that as the ferry operator he's responsible - but can't understand why the captain went to sea with passengers when he'd been ordered not to.

Kirennang Tokiteba is the owner of the MV Butiraoi and says he has the burden of the disaster on his shoulders.

"If anything happens to the vessel or the passengers on board, we are the ones responsible for that."  

Police have ordered him to remain in the country while authorities work out what led to the tragedy. 

"They issued me for a warrant to search for all the documents relating to maintenance of the vessel and a warrant to seize my passport," he says. 

The ferry had been surveyed just before the fatal voyage - that survey stipulated the vessel wasn't to carry passengers.

Mr Tokiteba knows he's being blamed, but showed Newshub documents proving the vessel was seaworthy at the time of the disaster. 

He says the captain should never have allowed people on board, but did so even after running the vessel aground. 

"Everything is going to be straightened up in court, that's what the police have already mentioned to me."

He says he's been told not only was the vessel loaded with too many passengers, it was carrying 35 tonnes of coconuts - well in excess of regular cargo limits. 

This is the biggest loss of life to ever hit the tiny nation of Kiribati, and follows another fatal ferry sinking in 2009 which claimed the lives of 33 people. 

Now there are calls for accountability and the people want the government to act swiftly. 



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