Belinda's incomplete journey
The late Belinda John Kembu who was a passenger on the ill-fated journey of MV Rabaul Queen.
Picture and story by Alexander Nara.
It was not just an ordinary Christmas holiday for Belinda John Kembu when she travelled to Kimbe three weeks ago to see her parents and family.
It was a journey any 28-year-old woman would take to inform her parents about a man who planned to ask for her hand in marriage. She had travelled to Kimbe in Papua New Guinea’s West New Britain province, to specifically seek her family’s blessings to move to that next chapter of her life.
In Lae, on the PNG mainland, a young man waited nervously after three weeks to hear back from her, hoping to see her name and number flash on his mobile phone screen and to hear the sweet, soft voice he had grown to love as their relationship blossomed.
That call never came as Belinda was one of over 100 Papua New Guineans who perished on February 2 in the ill-fated journey of the MV Rabaul Queen, when it sank in rough seas between Lae and New Britain Island.
Her tragic passing has hit the family with distraught Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) pastor John Kembu, Belinda’s father, revealing – in between speechless moments – that he had given his daughter his full blessings.
In fact he had asked his daughter to advise him and the family when she and her husband-to-be would travel back to Kimbe for their wedding.
But amidst heavy rain and strong winds on that fateful Tuesday afternoon before tragedy struck, the young Papua New Guinean woman – an accountant by profession – boarded the ship high in spirit and full of hope after securing her father’s approval.
MV Rabaul Queen passenger Philip Batari uploaded this picture of waves pounding the ship, less than
24 hours before the vessel's sinking on his Facebook page. It is not known if Batari survived the sinking.
Source: Philip Batari, Facebook.
Belinda’s fiancée, torn apart by the loss of his loved one, confirmed that she called him before boarding the ship.
“I will bring you to Kimbe sooner than you expect,” he recalled her saying.
When a single-engine plane flew to West New Britain last Friday from Lae, the young man disembarked from the aircraft with the casket and it dawned on him, that she had as she said brought him to Kimbe sooner than expected.
Belinda is reportedly among seven Seventh Day Adventists who died in the sinking, which ranks as PNG’s deadliest maritime disaster. On that vessel was another Papua New Guinean Philip Batari, who picture posting on Facebook of waves pounding the ship less than 24 hours before its sinking, made headlines around the world. It is not known if Batari, who list New Zealand rugby league star Benji Marshall and his West Tigers NRL club as his favorite player and team, survived the sinking.
The PNG government has announced that the shipping disaster will be investigated with the Parliament-elected Prime Minister Peter O’Neill recently announcing that the investigations will be led by the Australian National Maritime Safety Authority. Over 200 passengers had been saved from the sinking ferry but over 100 remain unaccounted, with PNG maritime officials not ruling out alleged negligence on the part of the ship’s owners.
- Additional reporting by Alexander Rheeney