PCG probes 3rd ship in Cebu ferry tragedy
CEBU – Another passenger vessel, the Trans Asia 9, is now in hot water after it allegedly failed to respond to a distress call from the sinking MV St. Thomas Aquinas.
Trans Asia overtook the cargo ship, Sulpicio Express 7, and even saw the MV St. Thomas Aquinas while on its way out minutes before the collision happened.
But Trans Asia did not go back to help rescue passengers.
"Captains who receive distress calls from a vessel and is within range to respond to the incident is obliged to conduct search and rescue operations,” said Cebu Station Commander Weniel Azcuna.
Trans Asia explained that its ship was unable to go back because it was already too far at about 5 miles away from the collision site.
At that point, it didn't have the space to make a U-turn in the narrow channel for ships.
Trans Asia added that its vessel could run aground, putting at risk the lives of some 300 passengers on board.
“Kung nandoon pa sa loot talaga at hindi channel ay very easy for the Trans 9 to go back and by all means we will rescue,” said Trans Asia Shipping Lines manager Abner Llenos.
Trans Asia also said its captain decided not to turn around as their engines may suck in passengers at sea and may even hit small boats helping in the rescue operations.
"Kung hindi man mahigop ng propeller namin, baka lumusot sa ilalim at ma-entangle sila," said Llenos.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is also checking if the overtaking of Trans Asia affected Sulpicio's direction towards Aquinas.
But Trans Asia said this is impossible since they were already kilometers away when the two collided.
The captains of Aquinas, Sulpicio, and Trans Asia are still with their companies and not in custody of authorities.
This did not sit well with some local officials, who are trying to seek justice for the victims.
"If this was just a mere vehicular accident, the driver is already detained and made to answer, but considering that these are vessels, and unfortunately there are 74 fatalities, but now wala pa tayong investigation being conducted, and it’s not fair to all those who are involved and those who have died," said Cebu Councilor Gerry Carillo.
The Coast Guard said they have been assured by the three shipping lines that the captains will appear at the proper time and venue.
More bodies have been retrieved from the ill-fated ferry, but dozens more are still missing. The death toll has risen to 75.