Lt. Governor Explains Tugboat’s Aborted Trip

The reason why the tug boat Sailele was heading to Samoa yesterday was to provide assistance in containing the fuel tank fire that erupted at the wharf in Matautu yesterday.

However the Coast Guard ordered the vessel, which is an in harbor boat, back to port because it didn’t have equipment needed for a trip in the open ocean.

Responding to KHJ News questions, Lt, governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga said there was a consultation regarding the fuel tank fire in Apia yesterday at the American Samoa Department of Homeland Security.

Present at the meeting were Governor Lolo Moliga, Lt. Governor Lemanu, several directors and Governor’s Office staff and members of the First Responders group.

At that meeting Governor Lolo decided to provide five drums of 3% fire fighting foam to help Samoa contain the fire.

Lemanu said staff informed the Coast Guard they were on an emergency mission to provide needed assistance to Samoa and if the CG needed to inspect the boat, they can come to Apia and do it there.

The Lt. Governor says the Sa’ilele left port at about 6:36 pm, yesterday.

On board were himself, Director of Homeland Security, Utualii Iuniasolua Savusa, Manager of oil company Pacific Energy, Fire Chief OBrien,  Sione Kava of the Office of Petroleum Management  and crew of the Airport Rescue and Firefighting Division.

Wally Thompson was in the captain’s’ seat assisted by Captain Loleni and the Sailele crew.

Lt. Governor Lemanu says that when they were just off the airport area, the Sailele received information from the Coast Guard that they wanted the boat to return to port for an inspection.

When the Sailele got to the Vaitogi/Leone area and was experiencing rougher conditions as it sailed further in the open sea, raising concern for everyone’s safety,  after conferring with Captain Wally Thompson, Lt. Governor Lemanu decided for the boat to return to port.

Efforts to obtain comment from the head of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Unit lt. Vignette Kalstas were unsuccessful as she was in meetings.

Meanwhile from Samoa, the head of the Samoa Disaster Advisory Committee Suluimalo Amataga Penaia says American Samoa’s governor responded after Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, chairman of the committee asked for the use of helicopters if needed.

Diplomatic representatives for New Zealand, Australia and the United States also offered assistance.

Several United States research scientists off the NOAA research vessel Oscar Elton Sette that’s in Apia for a special fisheries research project also offered their help.

A welder employed by fuel supplier Petroleum Products Supplies Ltd, who had been working on one of the tanks at the Matautu wharf was killed in the explosion.

Another employee  was injured but  was discharged a few hours after he was admitted to the hospital.

Investigations are continuing into the cause of the explosion.

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