Probers say 'Princess' may have sailed into Frank's eye

Posted at 07/05/08 10:55 PM

The Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) investigating the tragedy of the passenger ferry that capsized with more than 800 passengers and crew said Saturday they believe that the ship may have ran straight into the eye of typhoon Frank (international codename Fengshen) based on a testimony of a survivor.

In his testimony before the Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI), messman Ciriaco Nuñez narrated how typhoon Frank battered the M/V Princess of the Stars.

According to him, the ship's chief steward instructed him before 8 a.m. of June 21st to help bring passengers to a safer area because strong rain and winds were pounding the left side of the ship.

At about 8:20 a.m., the weather suddenly calmed down.

"Akala namin, okay na kasi. Tapos masaya na yung mga passenger," said Nuñez.

But after another ten minutes, heavy winds and strong waves again battered the ship, but this time on its right side.

This kind of weather went on until the Princess of the Stars eventually capsized.

The BMI said this only means one thing: the ship entered the eye of the storm despite previous testimonies that the ship's captain steered clear of Typhoon Frank's path.

"Those are physical manifestations of entering into a vortex of a typhoon," said BMI vice-chair Rear Admiral Benjamin Mata.

But since there is still no word whether the captain or any of his officers survived the tragedy, the BMI said they will consolidate testimonies from survivors to determine whether the ship was in the path of the storm or not.

According to PAGASA, the conditions at the eye of the typhoon are usually calm, and the area immediately around it is the storm's strongest and deadliest part.

"Umpisa nun, hindi gaano kalakasan, hanggang sa ma-reach yung maximum intensity bago yung mata. Pag lampas ng mata, yung intensity sa kabila halos ganoon din ang pinaka-maximum intensity na mararanasan mo," said PAGASA weather forecaster Rene Paciente.

The BMI said it needs testimonies from more survivors to strengthen their theory.

But since Malacañang has set a deadline to fast-track the investigation, the BMI appealed to other survivors to communicate with them as soon as possible.

DNA testing to begin Tuesday

The registration of relatives of missing passengers of the ill-fated ferry has begun to expedite the identification of the recovered bodies now being kept in Cebu.

There are now 203 bodies in Cebu after 31 more bodies arrived Saturday afternoon. Seven are female, 24 are male.

On Friday two bodies were identified through fingerprint matching.

The two victims were among 67 cadavers currently being examined by the National Bureau of Investigation.

DNA testing kits meanwhile have yet to arrive in Cebu, and the testing is expected to commence Tuesday. With reports from Joey Villarama, ABS-CBN News, and Vera Leigh Lasam, ABS-CBN Cebu