COVID-19 delays keep family from Tongan fruit picker killed by snake in Australia

Relatives of a Tongan fruit picker who died from a snake bite in Far North Queensland last month are calling for his body to be flown home as quickly as possible.

Timote Ongosia, 40, was bitten by an eastern brown snake on a farm near Dimbulah, west of Cairns, on September 20.

ABC News reports the Tongan man, who was employed as a seasonal worker at the time, died in hospital two days later.

Elder, Pesi Brown, said the man's wife and parents were desperate for his body to be returned, but COVID-19 border restrictions had delayed the repatriation process.

"They want him to come home," she said.

"Due to the borders still closing back in Tonga, they're working it out ... at the moment the body is still in the hospital here."

He said, 'I got bitten'

Ms Brown said the bite happened when Mr Ongosia was walking barefoot to his dormitory on a Sunday morning.

"The boys there noticed he was sweating and looking agitated," she said.

"They asked, 'Are you alright?' and he turned around and said, 'I got bitten by a snake'."

Mr Ongosia was initially rushed to Mareeba Hospital and later transferred to Cairns Hospital for further treatment.

"His heart stopped," Ms Brown said.

"The paramedics tried hard to bring him back ... they put him on the oxygen machine but, it was too late."

Brother also on farm

A police spokesman said a report had been prepared for the coroner.

The tragedy has sparked an outpouring of grief from the local Tongan community in support of Mr Ongosia's family, including his brother who was employed on the same farm at the time.

"He is devastated," Ms Brown said.

A memorial service with traditional songs and prayers was held for Mr Ongosia in Mareeba a week after his death.

"We all gathered there to show our respects. It's like a comfort to support them," Ms Brown said.

The community has also raised $1000 to support Mr Ongosia's wife and young child, who live in Tonga.