Death Ship Captain Wrote "Damning" Reviews
Australia’s coronial inquest into the deaths on board the Sage Sagittarius has heard how Captain Venancio Salas Jr wrote "damning" reviews of crew members he considered part of a plan to have the ship detained when it reached Australian waters.
Salas told Glebe Coroners Court that there was no basis to report the ship to authorities and described the allegations as fabricated. The inquest had previously heard allegations of gun-running, physical abuse and unpaid overtime would be reported to the International Transport Workers’ Federation when the vessel docked in Australia.
A young crew member revealed the details of the plan to report the ship to the captain on the morning of August 30, 2012, the same day chief cook Cesar Llanto disappeared overboard
He was the first of three men to die on board the Sage Sagittarius, now dubbed the death ship, between August 30 and October 6. He disappeared overboard from the ship as it sailed towards Australia. Chief engineer Hector Collado, 57, died as a result of an 11-meter (36 foot) fall on board the bulk carrier in September 2012. The third death, outside the inquest’s scope, was Japanese safety superintendent Kosaku Monji who was crushed to death in the vessel’s conveyor belt machinery.
On the evaluation forms of at least four crew members, Salas allegedly wrote that they put the company, captain and ship itself at risk with their plan to contact the International Transport Workers Federation.
Salas wrote they should not be re-hired by the company.
Counsel Assisting the Coroner Philip Strickland described the evaluations as "damning," saying it would be a "disaster" for the crew members who, as a result, might never have been able to work again.
Salas agreed that would be the case. However, he told the inquest it was normal to write such a review if crew members were putting the ship "in trouble."
Strickland put it to Salas that there was "severe conflict" on board the ship at the time of Llanto's disappearance, but Salas denied any memory of this.
Earlier this week, Strickland questioned Salas on where he was when Llanto disappeared overboard, and after repeated questioning, Salas admitted he was on the ship’s deck at the time, in the area where the chief cook was last seen alive.
Salas was told other crewmen had given evidence to the inquest that he was on the deck when the chief cook arrived, however he denied this.
Salas also admitted that it was probable part of the voyage data recorder (VDR) audio recording was deleted the day Llanto disappeared. When asked if he had switched it off, he told the inquest he didn’t remember.
Strickland put to Salas that he knew the VDR recorded what was said when Llanto came to the ship’s bridge on the morning of his disappearance. Salas replied: “If it’s working.” He then told the inquest he could not recall if he asked someone else to delete audio on the VDR.
The inquest, which began last year, had previously heard Salas was selling guns on board the ship.