Monday, September 21, 2015

Expert says Pinoy engineer’s fatal fall on board ‘death ship’ may have been accident

An Australian crime scene investigator has told probers looking into the mysterious deaths on board coal carrier MV Sage Sagittarius that the fatal fall of its Filipino chief engineer in 2012 may have been by accident and not a result of foul play as indicated in the initial investigation.

In a report on The Maritime Executive, Detective Sargent Shawn Harkins said there was no "disturbance of bloodstain patterns" found near chief engineer Hector Collado's body when it was found after the fall.

Harkins said if there was another person present when Collado was bleeding after his 11-meter fall, the stains left behind would show signs of movement.

Police found a laceration unrelated to the fall on Collado's head, an injury forensic pathologist Dr. Brian Beer claimed as suspicious in his own investigation.

Harkins, however, admitted that he could not directly dispute Beer's findings, adding he has yet to personally examine the area of the incident.

Death and disappearance

Harkins made his statements during the third inquest into the death of Collado and the disappearance of Cesar Llanto, also a Filipino. Llanto, Sage Sagittarius' chief cook, disappeared overboard in August 2012, two weeks before Collado's death. He is already presumed dead.

On the same year, Japanese safety superintendent Kosaku Monji was also killed while on board MV Sage Sagittarius when he was crushed on a conveyor belt. The three deaths earned Sage Sagittarius the monicker "death ship" in media reports.

According to a report on The Daily Mercury, the latest inquest did not cover Monji's death.

It also said that unlike in Monji's death, audio recordings on the days Collado and Llanto had their respective accidents were overwritten from the ship's voyage recorder, which is similar to a plane's black box.

The report said this information came from Kazuhiro Hayashi, an official of Hachiuma Steamship, the ship's managers, when he faced investigators.

Hayashi also reportedly said the death of the two Filipinos had not been investigated by Hachiuma Steamship and ship owners NYK Line, as they prefer to leave the investigation to Australian and international authorities.

Captain admits to gunrunning, not to murder

MV Sage Sagittarius' captain, Venancio Salas, has been accused of gunrunning and physically assaulting his crew members by his own men during an inquest earlier this year, the Daily Mercury reported.

Salas reportedly agreed to meet with Collado days before the Filipino's fatal fall. At the time, Collado was "deeply depressed" because of Llanto's disappearance.

The Daily Mercury report said Salas had admitted to running guns but denied having a hand in Llanto and Collado's death. He suppposedly accused an oiler named Raul Vercede of having a hand in the killings. Vercede denied the claims as he was not onboard the ship at the time of Collado's death.

The next round of inquest settings will begin in February 2016. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

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