Death Ship Inquest: Captain's story targeted at inquest

FOR the first time, the captain of the so-called Death Ship has appeared in person to give evidence to a coronial inquest into two fatalities on board his former vessel.

Captain Venancio Salas Jr was brought before the inquest on Wednesday afternoon in a grey hoodie and dark polo shirt, after Australian Regional Media revealed his new ship -- the Kyrpos Sea -- had quietly arrived in Gladstone.

Counsel Assisting the Coroner Philip Strickland questioned Capt Salas on where he was when chief cook Cesar Llanto disappeared overboard about 8am on August 30, 2012.

Sage Sagittarius
Sage Sagittarius

In a statement, Capt Salas had written he was not on the ship's bridge at any point between 8am and 9am.

Mr Strickland asked Capt Salas if he sent an email from the ship at 8.48am. Capt Salas said he did.

The bridge is the only place with an "email terminal" capable of sending messages while the ship is out of internet range.

Former Captain of the Sage Sagittarius or
Former Captain of the Sage Sagittarius or "death ship", Captain Venancio Salas Jr. Contributed

After repeated questions, Capt Salas admitted he was on the ship's deck during that hour, in the area where the chief cook was last seen alive.

Capt Salas was told other crewmen had given evidence to the inquest that Capt Salas was on the deck when the chief cook arrived.

The captain denied this.

Three men died on the Sage Sagittarius under Capt Salas' command during a six week period in late 2012, two of those in Australian waters.

It is these two deaths that are the focus of the inquest.

The Sagittarius has previously visited the ports of Gladstone and Abbot Point in Central Queensland.

The inquest continues.

 

AFP interviewing key witnesses two years after deaths

AN INTERNATIONAL hunt for witnesses who may know how two men came to die on board a Japanese coal ship in 2012 is still going on, more than three years after the deaths.

The inquest into the fatalities aboard the Sage Sagittarius or "death ship" heard from Australian Federal Police that officers were still trying to track former crew members as of February 2, 2016.

AFP Detective Sergeant Scott Raven has been leading the investigation into the deaths.

Chief cook Cesar Llanto disappeared overboard on August 30, 2012 as the ship travelled along the Queensland coastline, bound for the Port of Newcastle.

Two weeks later, chief engineer Hector Collado would receive a blow to the head before falling 10m to his death as the Sagittarius arrived at its destination.

The ship has regularly visited ports in Gladstone and Abbot Point.

AFP officers twice boarded the ship to interview the crew at the time.

After the ship left the port, officers were then forced to seek out crewmen one-by-one if they wanted more information.

Det Sgt Raven told the inquest, which began in May last year, that he spoke briefly to a crewman earlier this month.
Officers wanted to ask the seafarer if he remembered seeing ship captain Venancio Salas Jr arguing with the now-lost chief cook.

The crewman told the officers no, but was otherwise "reluctant" to discuss the incident.

The inquest has previously heard allegations the captain instructed the cook to give less food to crew members, which led to an argument shortly before the cook vanished.

Other crew members told officers they scared to talk to authorities, fearing either personal or professional consequences.

Det Sgt Raven told the inquest a different crewman refused to be called to give evidence because it would put his hard-fought seafaring job at risk.

He told officers he struggled to find work after the deaths aboard the Sagittarius, and was not willing to put this opportunity in jeopardy.

The wife of a third crewman warned investigators not to involve her husband because she "feared for his life".
The inquest is due to resume for the afternoon.



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