Two lives lost at To Sua too many

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 21 August 2018, 12:00AM

There is no doubt about it. Thrill seekers love the popular To Sua Trench. 

And why not? There is something magical and mystical about the place. Which is easy to understand why it is on many people’s bucket lists.

And during the past few years, thanks to the advent of social media and continuous mainstream media coverage of the spot, the site has become one of the must see places for visitors to these shores. For good reason. 

It is a spectacular place to start with, not just the To Sua and the To le Sua trenches on their own but the well-manicured lawns, gardens and the million dollar panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

Sadly the popularity of the place has also attracted some very bad news. 

You see; two people have so far disappeared at the place. The worst part is that up until today, no one seems to know where they are, how they disappeared and most importantly, if there is any guarantee that this will not happen again.

The first instance was last year when a junior sailor in the Royal NZ Navy, Kilino Joseph Lemafo’e Tua, came to visit his family in Samoa. 

What was meant to be a short holiday in paradise turned into a tragedy when he disappeared at the site. A full search and rescue operation was launched but to no avail. Even specialist Navy divers brought in from New Zealand to try and find the body were not successful.

Several months later, after the local authorities claimed that Tua might have been struck by a rogue wave and fell into the ocean, the family was forced to honour his memory by holding a memorial service without his body.

Today, nobody knows what happened to Tua. An inquest is pending but that too is unlikely to tell us much. Which is the real tragedy of his death. 

Here is the thing, because we don’t know how Tua died at the place, it is hard to put a finger on what exactly needs to be done to prevent a repeat.

Which is precisely what appears to have unfolded again three weeks ago when another person went missing. This time, the man is Chinese. The authorities have identified him as Feng Nen Ming from China. He was in his 20s.

A search and rescue operation involving the Police and the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) has also been unsuccessful in locating Ming’s body. 

Last week, the official search was called off.

 “To date his body has not been found,” the Ministry of Police said. “Police Outpost (Lalomanu and Poutasi) are liaising with local villages around the area to notify police if a body is located.”

Well that is unlikely to happen. 

Here’s the thing, from what we know, two people have disappeared at the same location in the space of 15 months. One of them is a Navy Officer. You would have expected him to be of reasonable fitness and would be able to look after himself if he got into strife. 

Obviously the difficulty he might have gotten himself into out there were beyond his ability to deal with. Then you have a young Chinese man who has again gone missing. Close to a month after he disappeared, he too is unlikely to be found.

 This country cannot pretend that this is normal, especially when this place is marketed around the world as a must see place in Samoa. The Government and the Samoa Tourism Authority must immediately launch a full inquiry to find out exactly how these two men disappeared. 

Anybody who has been to the place will know there are no rescue staff around the place. There are lifeguards there which means if something were to happen, what can people do?

One life lost is bad enough. Two lives are way too many.

Tua and Ming’s disappearance cannot be treated as just accidents. Their lives are precious and the best thing that could happen is that we learn and find out what happened to them so that we can prevent another death.

We want To Sua to remain as a thrill seeker’s paradise, not a place with a history of mysterious unsolved disappearances. What do you think? 

Write and share your thoughts with us!

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 21 August 2018, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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