Australia’s inquest into the mysterious deaths on Sage Sagittarius, nicknamed the “death ship,” has heard that the ship manager could not find important audio and video data from the vessel.
The inquest is examining the death of Cesar Llanto, 42, one of three men from the Sage Sagittarius to die in a six weeks between August and October 2012. Llanto disappeared overboard as the vessel approached Australian waters northeast of Cairns.
The scope of the inquest also includes the death of chief engineer Hector Collado, 57, who died as a result of an 11-meter (36 foot) fall on board the bulk carrier. The third death, that of Japanese superintendent Kosaku Monji, who was crushed to death on a conveyor belt, is beyond the scope of the enquiry as it occurred when the ship was docked in Japan.
The court heard that Hachiuma Steamship Company had VDR recordings of the day Cesar Llanto, the chief cook, disappeared from the ship on August 30, reports The Daily Telegraph, but, appearing at the inquest via video link from Japan, general manager Kazuhiro Hayashi could not say whether the important data had been stored on the days of the deaths.
Philip Strickland, counsel assisting the NSW Coroner, asked why critical footage was missing and was told by Hayashi that he tried to locate the footage before the hearing but “couldn’t find anything.”
Hayashi had been on the ship with Monji as part of a crisis management team conducting an internal investigation into the first two deaths that occurred on board.
Speaking through a translator, he conceded the company did not notify police in Japan or the local transport safety body about the unusual deaths at the time.
One of the crew members has also spoken out at the inquest saying he feared for his life after Llanto’s disappearance. The man, who cannot be named, told the inquest he believed Llanto’s death was neither an accident nor a suicide.
“I don’t believe he accidentally fell overboard,” he told Glebe Coroner’s Court, reports The Guardian.
The crew member spoke of an argument between the ship’s master Venancio Salas and Llanto a week prior to the cook’s disappearance. The argument was over the captain’s order to give the crew less food, a practice he believed enabled the captain to personally take the money saved.
The inquest has previously heard that Salas was selling guns to the crew and had bullyied a kitchen hand.
Australian Customs and Border Protection officials raided the Sage Sagittarius 13 times in the three years before the deaths occurred. News agency Four Corners has also established that four of the Sage Sagittarius' crew, including Salas, had been flagged on a border protection database.
The inquest continues.