Ads by Google Ads by Google

DPS probe of drowning at Pala Lagoon Center reveals no “foul play”

Tualauta Representative Vui Florence Saulo
Tualauta rep questions DOE policies and school trips after Toese drowning

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Tualauta Representative Vui Florence Saulo has written to the Director of Education expressing concern regarding the drowning at Pala Lagoon Swimming Pool, at the same time, the father of the young girl who drowned contradicts claims that DOE performed a traditional “ifoga” before the grieving family.

Meanwhile, the DPS investigation into the incident is completed with facts and findings revealing “foul play was not involved” in the drowning which took the life of 13-year-old Tinian Toese two weeks ago.

It also stated that “based on the facts collected and circumstances surrounding this matter, the manner of death has been ruled as an accidental ruling.”

In her June 19 letter to Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga, Vui said that she wrote her letter with a very heavy heart, after receiving word about an eighth grade student who drowned while on a school picnic at the Pala Lagoon Swimming Pool.

“I can only imagine the pain that this child’s parent had to endure having received such dreadful news. As a parent myself I cannot even begin to describe the sense of loss that this child’s family is going through at this time. I hope that they can find comfort in the loving arms of our Heavenly Father,” Vui wrote in her letter.

As a representative of Tualauta Vui said she was very concerned about the circumstances that led to the death of this young child. She said that there are many news reports and initial information going around regarding what happen, which may indicate that there was a lack of proper supervision of the children.

She said that such news instantly raises so many questions regarding DOE policies towards school trips.

“However, at this point she would rather allow the investigatory process to continue so that an accurate determination of what happened may be made. So many questions need to be answered because I believe this needless loss of life should never have happened,” Vui stated in her letter.

Notwithstanding the pending investigation, the Tualauta representative feels that the duty and urgency to press upon DOE the obligation that the government has with regards to the care and custody of school children during school hours.

“…Parents have entrusted our educators and school personnel with the safety of their children which is why when incidents such as these happen, we first ask, where were the teachers? We all understand that school children can sometimes be difficult to manage and control, especially when having fun, that is why the people responsibility for their supervisor should always be mindful of the responsibility to make sure that safety comes first,” Vui said.

She told Matagi-Tofiga that she understands the fact that the incident happened during the week of graduation and the students and teachers were in a celebratory mood having accomplished a milestone in education.

“But that cannot make us lose sight of the fact that these students are young and that there is always an obligation to apply the rules of conduct whenever and wherever they may be,” Vui said, adding that those rules were meant for the protection of “our children and our teachers as well.”

Vui said this graduation season has been marred by such a sad incident. Rather than celebrating the accomplishments of a young mind, parents and family are now left to deal with the sad reality of loss.

“I pray that our good Lord shows them comfort during this very difficult time, and hope that this incident becomes a lesson to us all of the need to always make the safety of our children a first priority,” she concluded.

Copies of the letter were sent to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga; Lt. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Mauga; Pala Lagoon manager Nua Salanoa, and parents of the young girl, Sililo and Winnie Toese.


A report from the investigating officer was forwarded to Attorney Genera Talauega Eleasalo Alo, requesting that the body of the young girl be released to her family. According to the police investigation, Tinian Toese’s death has been ruled as ‘accidental’.

Information relayed by family members along with the investigation conducted by a detective from the DPS Criminal Investigating Division (CID) “does not warrant the involvement of a second party nor any indication of criminal act.”

Dr. G. Heiderich pronounced the decedent dead on arrival on June 13, 2018 at around 1:25 p.m. The cause of death was said to be “Cardiac Arrest-Resume Hypoxic Respiratory Failure from drowning”.


There has been a lot mixed information about an “ifoga” (traditional apology) which was presented to the family and to the parents of the young girl by principal and teachers of the Pava’ia’i Elementary School last week’s Sunday.

And, the grieving father wanted to set the record straight, saying the apology that was performed by the school principal and teachers was not a traditional apology. In fact, it was just a verbal apology.

“I understand that an “ifoga” happens when people from the other family kneel in the “malae” in front of the family home of the deceased, with their bodies covered with a big fine mat. And they have to wait and see if the family of the deceased accepts their apology,” Sililo Toese told Samoa News.

According to Toese, the school principal and teachers did not kneel in front of the family while covered with a fine mat.

“It was after their evening prayer for my daughter last week Sunday when one teacher suddenly knelt down in the middle of the family, and started to apologize to our family and to us parents. I immediately got up and walked over to where the teacher was kneeling down told her to stand up,” Toese said.

“We read in the newspaper that the director of Education has stated that the principal and teachers performed a traditional ifoga for our family. We don’t want the public to misled because of this statement.”

According to a press release from Matagi-Tofiga last week, the principal along with teachers and staff performed a traditional ifoga to the family of the young girl.