BY Alan Ah Mu
APIA: THURSDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2013: A combination of stupidity, arrogance and recklessness by a bus driver has left two families devastated.
Moe Iosua, 47, of Fagae’e and Vaitele-fou, whose bus overturned in a ford at Lano in July which led to the death of two girls, was today sent to jail for 11 years for manslaughter.
Iosua was also disqualified from driving for that length of time even if out on parole and was disqualified from holding or obtaining a Road service Licence indefinitely.
On Saturday 6 July he drove a bus towards Salelologa to link up with the ferry at 2pm.
On the full or nearly full bus were men, women and children, young villagers and two tourists.
The bus reached the Lano ford at 1.10pm. There had been heavy rainfall and the river was overflowing.
One vehicle was parked to the side and so was a bus on the opposite side of the ford.
The driver of that bus believed it was unable to cross the flooded river and had discharged a passenger and turned around.
In his written decision delivered today, Justice Pierre Slicer said “That passenger saw the defendant’s bus approaching and stood on the bank waving and signaling the approaching vehicle to stop. The defendant ignored the warning.”
The depth of the water was knee-level.
Passengers on the defendant’s bus cautioned him against crossing and that peoples’ lives were in his hands.
Others on the side of the river called out “’E le sao’ – the bus will not make it.”’
The defendant edged the bus towards the water, reversed presumably to gain speed and drove in.
The bus rolled over at least twice on the ford.
Passengers trapped inside were thrown about and some fell on top of each other and other internal objects swallowing water.
“It was at this time that Filomena’s mother lost hold of her daughter who was swept away. The scene was one of horror.”
When it rolled again the bus lost its roof allowing passengers to escape.
Some swam, the elderly and children were helped by other passengers to stay afloat.
“The group drifted apart.”
Some ended up in the ocean and but for the low tide other lives would probably have been lost, Justice Slicer said.
At around 7pm a villager found Maria Aiaraisa’s body. The Avao girl was aged 11.
“On Sunday 9 July at 9pm Police, matai and young villagers found Filomena’s (aged 5) body.”
Both girls had drowned.
“Both families have been devastated.
“Maria was an intelligent, happy, child.”
She was the hope and bright jewel of her family, a dux of her class who excelled in religious studies and belief.
“No words can describe the effect of the death of a believed penina, a pearl, deprived of a vibrant live and love. The last words a proud and caring mother heard from her jewel was ‘I love you mum;’ a memory which will live in her heart and mind forever.
“The impact will remain with the family and those who knew and loved her.”
Filomena was with her mother and father when the accident happened.
“Both parents were injured. They suffered the trauma of being present at the time of the death of their daughter.”
“Her memory is constant in the mind of her father and especially in the thoughts of her mother at bedtime.”
“Both families have suffered great anguish and ongoing psychological harm. Time might lessen the pain but the sorrow and psychological harm will remain forever.
“The parents understandably seek Moe Iosua to be punished as a murderer.”
“Here a comination of stupidity, arrogance and reckless conduct makes up the crime.”
The families of the two girls accepted an apology from Mika family who owned the bus but reject any offer from the defendant.
Married with two children Moe Iosua was entrusted with the lives of a large number of persons.
The defence argued he had committed a failure of judgement not willful disregard for safety and had a good history as a driver.
His offers to apologise showed he was remorseful, the defence said.
“Doubtless he is remorseful for the taking of the lives of two children,” says Justice Slicer.
“The Court accepts the absence of intoxication and early plea but places less importance on good reputation,” he says.
“This was not a case of momentary lapse of judgment.”
The defendant could see that other vehicles had assessed the risk.
“This was not inadvertence or negligence.”
“He was warned by a person outside of the vehicle not to proceed. He approached the river, reversed to pick up speed and deliberately proceeded despite the cries and warnings of his passengers. He was not responsible just for the lives of one or two passengers as in a motor car. He was the holder of a public not a private licence. He knew that he had children and the elderly in his trust. He was not merely stupid but took a calculated course of conduct imperiling he lives of many.”
The penalty of the court will not bring back the lives of the children or lessen the grief of their families.
“But it seeks to provide a general deterrence to those entrusted with public safety and duty to those who are helpless passengers in a public conveyance. Here two lives were destroyed.”
“The only solace this court can offer to the families is that hey will be reunited with their children in Heaven. They will be remembered in the hearts and minds of all Samoans. They will live on in the memories of all who knew them.”