Hundreds attend Wahine disaster 50th commemorations

By Talisa Kupenga

Hundreds gathered at Wellington's Eastbourne dawn service to remember the more than 50 lives lost five decades ago in the Wahine disaster.

The service was held at the Muritai school hall, which was used as a welfare shelter at the time, a short distance from where many people washed ashore during the tragedy.

Konga Reriti was eight-years-old at the time. The tragedy remains fresh in his mind.

"I arrived home after school and saw it all on the TV.  It was a shock.  I saw the ship on its side and wanted to go have a look. But it was it was too rough".

Reriti's uncles and cousins were part of rescue efforts that terrible day.

"They told me it was very sad and terrible to see the boat on its side, the people in emergency rafts being brought ashore, and the severe weather conditions".

In 1968 the Wahine hit Barrett Reef in Wellington Harbour.  51 people died that day.

Passenger Judy Feldon and her late husband were on-board for their honeymoon.

"I had my bag and he was helping take people off the boat. Stu he just grabbed my bag opened it up and shoved everything down his shirt under his life-jacket. We had everything including our wedding licence, the lot".

The Wahine Charitable Trust says the disaster changed the way ships were built worldwide.