Tongan female fruit picker shares worst nightmare after being left stranded in Queensland

    A Tongan young woman has shared the terrifying moments she experienced when her co-workers left without waking her up on a night on their way to return to Tonga from Australia.

    Sofia Filo, 30, of Maʻufanga has revealed how she walked in terror while crying and searching for help in the tiny Central Queensland town of Miriam Vale on the night of November 24.

    Sofia was one of a 39 Tongans group working in Queensland on the Australian Seasonal Workers’ Programme.

    They were on a bus from Bowen in North Queensland to Brisbane to catch their flight to Sydney and Tonga.

    Talking to Kaniva News yesterday by telephone from Tonga, Sofia said they left Bowen on Wednesday 23 at 5am and arrived at Miriam Vale, 464 km north of Brisbane, about 11.30pm.

    Their bus broke down and they were told to rest in a park while the bus was fixed.

    sofia-filo
    Sofia Filo was left stranded in Miriam Vale, Australia. Photo/Supplied

    Sofia and two other women took a nap on chairs in the park. When the bus was fixed the women and the rest of the Tongan workers got on board and took off without Sofia.

    It appeared the two women did not realise she was still sleeping in the park.

    Sofia said she had not met them since the incident.

    She said while she was looking for help she managed to get hold of one of her co-workers in the bus on her cellphone.

    She was told the bus would not return to pick her up and was told to walk to the Police station which was near to the petrol station where their bus refueled.

    However, when she reached the police station there no one was in the office.

    Sofia said she had heard about women being abducted in Australia and was scared that if this happened she might be abducted or killed.

    “When vehicles came towards me I just pretended that I was walking to the next home and sometimes entered  properties to let them think I was just a local”, Sofia said.

    “I was so terrified and crying when I was walking alone thinking of what could happen next, but I just thank God I was saved”, she said.

    She claimed the passengers told her they asked the group leader Loka Maile to count the number of passengers to make sure they were all on board, but he did not do it.

    Maile could not be reached for comment.

    Sofia’s three-hour horror ordeal was ease off when a palangi woman came out of her house to check a mysterious loud sound that echoed in the area, Sofia said.

    The woman saw Sofia and she immediately suspected she was lost and struck up a conversation with her.

    The woman, Pauline Hill, took her home.

    Sofia spent the night with  Hill until the morning when she took her to a railway station.

    The woman also helped her how to get into Brisbane airport.

    She left Miriam Vale at 9am Thursday 24 and arrived in Brisbane at 3pm.

    Sofia said when she arrived in Brisbane some of her co-workers were still waiting for their flights.

    She asked them why they did not return to pick her up and was told the group leader feared they might not get their flights to Sydney.

    Sofia told Kaniva News she had not reported what had happened to her to the Tongan authorities.

    Her brother Robert Filo told Kaniva News he was furious at the group leader for making the decision not to return the bus.

    “So so mad at one of the Pacific Regional Program Leader in Australia, that deliberately left my sister stranded in the middle of nowhere after their bus broke down”, Robert said.

    “I am trying to get to the bottom of this, when someone treated my own sister like that, not even care or even have the decency to go back and get her, rather he told the driver to keep going as they might miss their connection flight from Brisbane to Sydney.

    “Well they all arrived there at Brisbane airport and waited and more waiting while my sister trying her best to hitch the ride.

    “So so furiously angry for such ignorance and no concern, a member of his group, and she is a female.

    “I cannot comprehend this kind of leader as he should see our mother’s face when she learned that her daughter was left behind in the middle of nowhere.

    Robert spoke to Kaniva News on November 25 , the day after the incident.

    “We love you Sofia Filo, hope you’ll find your way and we pray to God to guide you safely all the way there in Australia and safely arrives to Tonga”.

    The Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tonga had not responded to questions from Kaniva News at the time this story was published.

    The main points

    • A Tongan young woman has shared the terrifying moments she experienced when her co-workers left without waking her up on a night on their way to return to Tonga from Australia.
    • Sofia Filo, 31, of Maʻufanga was one of a 39 Tongans group working in Queensland under the Australian Seasonal Workers’ Programme.
    • They were driving to Brisbane when their bus broke down in the tiny Central Queensland town of Miriam Vale.
    • She was left behind when the bus left, but was eventually found by a local woman who put her up over night and then put her on the train to Brisbane.

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