(AFP) – Aug 26, 2008
MANILA (AFP) — A Philippines ferry captain sailed toward the eye of a typhoon in a disastrous error of judgement that left nearly 800 people dead, according to an official probe reported Wednesday.
The Board of Marine Inquiry into the June 21 tragedy -- the country's worst maritime disaster for 20 years -- blamed the captain and called for the ferry company to be stripped of its franchise.
The 23,000-tonne Princess of the Stars, carrying 850 passengers and crew, capsized after hitting a reef off the central island of Sibuyan at the height of Typhoon Fengshen.
A report posted on the ABS-CBN television news website Wednesday cited the inquiry as finding that the ship's captain, Florencio Marimon, "miscalculated" the risk of continuing the trip to the central island of Cebu while the storm raged.
It blamed human error for the disaster -- Marimon is missing, presumed dead -- and the inquiry recommended the Sulpicio Lines franchise be suspended.
Copies of the findings were released to lawyers involved in the case late Tuesday and reported in the media Wednesday.
Only 57 passengers and crew survived the disaster.
"There was a failure of the master to exercise extraordinary diligence and good seamanship thereby committing an error of judgment," the inquiry found.
It also found Sulpicio Lines liable for failing to stop the captain sailing into the typhoon.
ABS-CBN said that apart from the cancellation of its franchise, Philippine Coast Guard commandant Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said Sulpicio Lines could also be criminally liable for the sinking.
"The Board said that this aspect of the investigation shall be turned over to government investigative bodies and agencies," the website said.
The ferry company has 30 days to appeal the Board's recommendation to the Maritime Industry Authority and the Department of Transportation.
Meanwhile, cargoes of at least five toxic pesticides and other poisonous substances are still on board the ferry which is expected to be refloated next month.
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