Philippines ferry disaster: Owner, crew are accused of murder

The movement of cargo, consisting heavy construction material and bags of rice, led to the accident that has claimed 59 lives so far

Philippines: Rescuers retrieved five more bodies from a ferry that capsized just moments after departing from a central Philippine port, raising the death toll to 50.

Residents watch as the ill-fated passenger ferry Kim Nirvana is lifted by a crane after it was towed to the pier in Ormoc City, central Philippines on July 3, a day after it capsized. Pic/AP
Residents watch as the ill-fated passenger ferry Kim Nirvana is lifted by a crane after it was towed to the pier in Ormoc City, central Philippines on July 3, a day after it capsized. Pic/AP

The bodies were recovered hours after coast guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said all 187 passengers and crew members on the M/B Kim Nirvana had been accounted for, with 45 dead, 142 survivors and no reports of anyone else missing. The vessel overturned in choppy waters on Thursday off Ormoc City.

Recheck survivor count
Balilo said the new bodies were found after a floating crane pulled the 36-ton wooden vessel close to shore. The additional fatalities raised questions about the number of people on board, and Balilo said they will have to recheck the number of survivors and investigate if the crew allowed people not on the manifest to board the ferry.

The outrigger was leaving Ormoc port en route to one of the Camotes Islands, about 30 kilometres to the south, when it was lashed by strong waves and capsized. “Among the things we will look into is if there was a faulty maneuver, the stability of the vessel, and of course the weather," he added.

Murder complaint
Regional coast guard commander Captain Pedro Tinampay said that the movement of cargo inside the ferry may have contributed to the accident. The ferry was carrying heavy construction materials and bags of rice. The police have filed multiple murder complaints against the owner and the crew.

Senior Inspector Rio Tan of the Ormoc City police said the complaints were filed with the local prosecutor late on Friday. Regional coast guard commander Captain Pedro Tinampay said on Saturday that at least 59 died and 145 survived, including all 18 crew members. Tinampay says a marine investigation has begun and it will also determine how many people actually were aboard the vessel.

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