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Boat sank due to big waves, says captain

ORMOC CITY—The captain of the ill-fated MB Kim Nirvana-B insisted on Tuesday that “big waves” brought down the boat minutes after it left the city wharf last week on its way to Pilar town on Camotes Island in Cebu province.

“It was not fast. It was due to the big waves at that time,” Warren Oliverio, 34, told the Inquirer at Ormoc Police Station 1, where he has been detained since Friday. Also held there were the boat’s owner, Jorge Bung Zarco, and 18 crew members.

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Sixty-one passengers drowned during the sinking of the Nirvana even as the body of a boy, age 2-3 years old and suspected to be another passenger, was found floating on Ormoc Bay near the city market at noon on Tuesday. A three-member maritime casualty investigation team headed by Lt. Orly Wong is looking into the sea tragedy.

Police filed a complaint of multiple murder, a nonbailable crime, against Zarco, Oliverio and the crew members in the City Prosecutor’s Office. Oliverio is from Pilar, where majority of the more than 200 boat passengers come from.

Witnesses have said that the 33.85-ton Nirvana made a sharp turn as it pulled out from the wharf on July 2, which could have caused the wooden boat to sink. Oliverio denied the charge, saying what happened was a freak accident.

When informed of the number of dead fished out from the sea, the boat captain turned his back and wiped his tears. He declined to comment on the criminal complaint filed against him and his crew.

“We did everything to help the passengers. I tried to help and even rescued a young boy. But there were so many of them. My legs got numb,” he said.

One of the crew members, Valente Borrinaga, 45, supported Oliverio’s remarks. “We have rescued several of them even before the Coast Guard arrived. We asked them to hold on to the outriggers so they could float and not be washed away (by the strong waves).”

Oliverio said he himself could not believe that the tragedy happened so fast and quick. “We did everything,” he repeated.

He insisted that he was not drunk or under the influence of an illegal substance, as others claimed, at that time. Borrinaga backed him up, saying that the boat could have sunk due to “strong winds and big waves.”

The crewman belied the claims of some survivors that the Nirvana was overloaded. But he could not recall how many bags of cement and rice were loaded onto the boat.

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While there were families who claimed that their loved ones had not been found, authorities could not estimate the number of those missing. The number of fatalities and survivors already exceeded the 173 names on the passenger manifest, but rescuers pulled out 142 survivors and 61 bodies, or a total of 203 passengers.

Bebot Itang, a worker at the public market, said the body of the male toddler was found without clothes about 12:30 p.m. and was brought to the funeral parlor in a vehicle owned by the Philippine Coast Guard.

“We cannot confirm yet if he was boat mishap fatality. The autopsy results would show how many days the boy was dead,” Coloy Tolibao, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council officer, told the Inquirer.

In Manila, the Department of Social Welfare and Development said it was coordinating with its regional offices to give assistance to the survivors and to the relatives of the dead passengers. With a report from Julie M. Aurelio in Manila

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TAGS: MB Nirvana, News, Regions, sea accidents
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