With allegations of bullying, gun running, and abuse, and three mysterious deaths that would ultimately earn Sage Sagittarius the nickname “Death Ship,” an inquest is underway on: What could possibly be going on aboard?
The Sage Sagittarius is a Japanese-owned, Panama-registered bulk carrier. In August 2012, its chief cook Cesar Llanto disappeared overboard off Cairns, Australia. A two-day search for the missing seaman – a 42-year-old from the Philippines with vast experience and supporting a family – would eventually involve not just the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (“AMSA”) but also nine bulk carriers. Unfortunately, their efforts would be fruitless.
As the vessel is registered in Panama, the country is tasked with investigating the incident. Though they would rule out suicide or an accidental fall, they gave out no other explanation for the incident.
In September 2012, the ship would again be involved in suspicious deaths. While the vessel was In Australian waters, another Filipino, 55-year-old chief engineer Hector Collado, falls to his death in the engine room. The 30-year industry veteran was just hours away from flying home, and did not seem to be impaired by weariness, alcohol or drugs. Panama authorities suggested he could have had a heart attack, though an investigation by the AMSA found head injuries that may have preceded his fall. In another incident, while the Sage Sagittarius was in a Japanese port, 37-year-old Japanese safety superintendent Kosaku Monji – tasked with an internal investigation into the deaths – is crushed to death by machinery while oiling faulty parts.
According to a representative of the owner NYK Line and manager Hachiuma Steamship, they conducted internal investigations, on top of fully cooperating with inquiries by Australia, Japan and Panama.
Three years later, however, questions remain and investigations continue. In an inquest in Australia earlier this year, it has been said that the captain was involved in selling guns on board and physical assault on some of the crew. A witness also revealed the captain had been involved in past arguments with the missing cook, including a heated one days before the cook vanished overboard. Another witness expressed fears ‘they could be next’ following the missing cook.
There have also been recent developments on an inquest into the engineer’s death; recent statements by a blood-pattern analyst, indicate this incident might have been an accident and that foul play may be “unlikely.” The inquest is continued to February of next year.
There are already so many dangers while being out at sea – it is unfortunate when these are compounded by abuse of seamen and in this case, possibly even foul play or murder. We at Kemplon Engineering hope the appropriate authorities would be able to shed more light on how and why these mysterious incidents occurred, and bring answers and justice to those lost and the people who care for them.
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Aird, Claire. “Sage Sagittarius inquest: Captain sold guns on board coal ship where three died, court hears.” ABC.net.au, 29 May 2015. Web. 28 Sep 2015. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-29/inquest-seafarers-death-captain-instructed-complaint-destroyed/6506390
“Death Ship Inquest: Foul Play ‘Unlikely’, but Not Ruled Out.” World Maritime News, 18 Sep 2015. Web. 28 Sep 2015. https://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/171945/death-ship-inquest-foul-play-unlikely-but-not-ruled-out/
Jacques, Owen. “Aboard The Death Ship: Timeline of three fatalities.” The Northern Star, 01 Jun 2015. Web. 28 Sep 2015. http://www.northernstar.com.au/news/aboard-death-ship-timeline-events/2657451/
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Mullany, Ashlee. “Crew of death ship Sage Sagittarius feared ‘we will be next’ witness tells coronial inquest.” The Daily Telegraph, 23 Jun 2015. Web. 28 Sep 2015. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/crew-of-death-ship-sage-sagittarius-feared-we-will-be-next-witness-tells-coronial-inquest/story-fni0cx12-1227411025241
Reynolds, Zoe. “Sage Sagittarius inquest sustains homicide fears.” HIS Maritime 360, 17 Sep 2015. Web. 28 Sep 2015. http://www.ihsmaritime360.com/article/19299/sage-sagittarius-inquest-sustains-homicide-fears
Image “Investigation” courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net