Cebu sea mishap, skippers blame each other
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Freeman) - August 20, 2013 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The skippers of the two vessels that collided off Lawis Ledge in Talisay City on Friday blamed each other as being the cause of the mishap.

In his marine protest, Reynan Bermejo, captain of MV St. Thomas Aquinas of 2Go Travel, said that while at the vicinity of Lawis Ledge on its way to Cebu port, they met outbound vessel MV Sulpicio Express Siete occupying the inbound lane of the traffic separation scheme.

He claimed that despite several calls, the vessel did not change course to vacate the inbound lane.

To avoid collision, he instead decided to alter the course of his vessel.

“While our vessel was turning to port (side), the outbound cargo vessel suddenly changed course to starboard (side) that caused the collision.  Our vessel was hit at the starboard quarter and sank as a result,” Bermejo’s marine protest stated.

But Rolito Gilo, captain of MV Sulpicio Express Siete, said that they already noticed a vessel on the portside approaching Lawis Ledge lighthouse.

He ordered to call the inbound vessel for a port-to-port passage in accordance with the traffic separation scheme but they did not get any response.  They made another call but still, there was no response.

He said that a minute after the second call, they sighted the red light of  MV St. Thomas Aquinas which indicated a port-to-port passage.

They also received a call from another vessel, Trans-Asia, asking them to overtake on the starboard side and they heeded the request.

He added that they proceeded to Lawis Ledge and continued to observe the red light of the 2Go vessel.

“Then, inbound vessel suddenly exhibited green light.  Impact between our vessel and the other vessel which turned out to be MV St. Thomas Aquinas occurred at 2046H (8:46 p.m.)  of 16 August 2013,” Gilo said in his marine protest.

He said he immediately sounded the alarm, broadcast “mayday” and conducted search and rescue operations.

His vessel saved 181 passengers and 33 crew members of MV St. Thomas Aquinas.

A marine protest shall be the primary evidence in the investigation of accidents involving  sea vessels.

The Board of Marine Inquiry (BMI) has the jurisdiction to investigate marine accidents or casualties relative to the liability of ship owners and officers and has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate cases and complaints against the marine officers.

The collision between passenger vessel MV St. Thomas Aquinas and cargo vessel MV Sulpicio Express Siete caused the passenger ship to sink.

It also resulted in the death of at least 52 persons while 68 of the total 831 passengers and crew of the passenger vessel remain missing.

MV Sulpicio Express Siete, owned by Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation (formerly Sulpicio Lines), sustained damage on its bow and was able to return to Cebu’s port safely with its 36 crew members.

Priests Tito Soquiño and Murphy Sarsonas of the Knight-Stewards of the Sea, Inc. (Seakinights) blessed the site of the accident at around 12 noon yesterday.

They also led the offering of flowers to the victims of the sea tradgedy.

The two diver-priests along with the Seaknights divers also went down to where MV St. Thomas Aquinas is lying, about 27 meters deep, to  bless the vessel.

Search and retrieval operation were halted yesterday due to rough seas.

Families and relatives of the identified cadavers complained as they failed to claim the bodies of their loved ones due to documentary requirements set by 2GO Travel and the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes.

Cebu City Councilor Hans Abella said that the management of 2Go and the funeral homes have come up with a process on the releasing of the bodies which requires the claimants to secure a death certificate duly signed by the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Cecilia Petalcorin, a resident of Lapu-Lapu City, wanted to claim the body of Virginita Agodera, her brother’s live-in partner, as they still need to bring her to her hometown in Davao.

Ulian Laag of Liloan, Cebu also wanted to claim the body of his aunt, Fortunata Laag, 82, but he failed to get a signature from DSWD since he was asked to present the victim’s birth certificate.

Councilor Abella has asked the management of the funeral homes to hasten the process.

Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes Operations Head George Esteban said yesterday they have not released a cadaver.  — Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Liv G. Campo, Michael Vencynth Braga (BANAT NEWS)

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