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Tongan fruit-picker dies after snake bite

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 24/09/2020

A 40-year-old man from Ngele’ia, has died in Australia after being bit by a snake.

Timote Ongosia was in Australia while working under the Ministry of Internal Affair’s Seasonal Worker scheme.

The incident happened in Mareeba Queensland on Sunday however, Ongosia passed away on Tuesday.

The CEO of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – Dr Fotu Fisi’iahi during a press conference this morning says, Ongosia was bitten by a “Brown Snake” one of the most dangerous types of snakes in Australia.

He explained that Ongosia was bitten on Sunday and returned to his house and talked with an individual he was living with, but did not reveal that he was bitten.

This person then noticed that Ongosia was distressed and asked him what happened, to which Ongosia finally told him; he was then rushed to hospital and by that time he entered cardiac arrest.

Doctors revived him using a ventilator and transferred him to a hospital in Cairns but unfortunately, it was too late.

Fotu adds, Ongosia had travelled with his brother to Australia under their Plant, Grown and Pick program and were supposed to return in July but this was not possible due to Tonga’s border closures.

This was Ongosia’s first trip through the fruit-picking program and is the program’s first death as a result of a snake bite.

Fotu also says, reports are currently being done to see whether Ongosia’s body is free from COVID-19 and once this is done the body will then be released to his family.

It is clear that this is the first time for a Tongan to die under the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ Fruit Picking Program to Australia during border closures.

Meanwhile, discussions are underway by the National COVID-19 Task-force on ways to return Ongosia’s body back to Tonga despite no scheduled repatriation flights from Australia.

© Radio and Television Tonga News