Death Ship Master Doesn't Remember Turning VDR Off
For the first time, the former master of the Sage Sagittarius has appeared in person at the Australian inquest into the death of two crewmembers.
Captain Venancio Salas Jr was brought before the Glebe Coroners Court on Wednesday afternoon after Australian local media revealed his new ship, the Kyrpos Sea, had berthed in Gladstone.
Hector Collado, 57, died as a result of an 11-meter (36 foot) fall on board the bulk carrier, dubbed the Death Ship, in September 2012. He was the second of three men to die on board the Sage Sagittarius between August 30 and October 6. The first was chief cook Cesar Llanto who disappeared from the ship as it sailed towards Australia, and the third, outside the inquest’s scope, was Japanese safety superintendent Kosaku Monji who was crushed to death in the vessel’s conveyor belt machinery.
Counsel Assisting the Coroner Philip 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.