ORMOC - The captain and owner of the motorbanca that sunk off the coast of Ormoc City said strong waves caused the vessel to tip over on Thursday.
MB Nirvana Captain Warren Oliverio said he was making a turn when a large wave hit the vessel.
"Pag clearance ng Coast Guard, umatras na kami. Tapos larga na sa direksyon namin. Pagliko namin, biglang sumalubong ang alon. Yung pumpboat, wala na. Hindi na mabawi," the captain said.
At least 40 people were reported killed in the sea tragedy. Initial reports said the motorized, wooden-hulled MBCA Kim-Nirvana was carrying 187 passengers and crew when it rolled onto its side and overturned minutes after leaving the port of Ormoc City on Thursday.
Survivors said the ferry appeared to turn sharply to the right and was hit by a large wave before it overturned after leaving port in Leyte province, south of the capital, Manila.
"We were given life vests but we were not able to wear them before the ferry sank," said Rhe-An Garciano, a survivor.
Panicked passengers crowded the right side of the ferry, causing it to tilt slowly before capsizing, Balilo said.
"The ferry was carrying cement and rice but it didn't appear to be overloaded," Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo said.
In an interview, Oliverio denied the Coast Guard's initial investigation report that said the vessel was going too fast when it made a turn, causing it to capsize.
"Hindi po totoo yun. Kapag mabilis ang liko ko, may isang bangka na nakaharang. Magbanggaan kami," he said.
The captain shed tears as he appealed to the victims' families for understanding and compassion. "Hindi naman namin alam na madidisgrasya nang mga panahong iyon," he said.
BRAND NEW BOAT
Joge Bung Zarco, owner of the motorized banca, denied that the vessel was overloaded with cargo or passengers.
"Hindi naman po siguro kasi tama naman load limit namin. Sa load liner, malayo pa," he said.
Zarco explained that there was no cargo loaded in the boat's storage area. He said the bags of cement did not cause the imbalance but were actually used to balance the passenger load.
"Hindi lang kami nagbodega sa mga semento namin kasi dun namin nilagay sa (labas) para pang counter balance, pero sa bodega wala," he said.
Zarco said he is willing to help the victims and will not run away from responsibility. He is currently detained by Philippine National Police and Coast Guard.
The owner said the MB Kim Nirvana is just a two-month-old boat with brand new engines and body.
"Nagstart lang po magbyahe yan mga Mayo. Construct yan November last year. Bago pa po yan, walang diperensya," Zarco said.
At the Ormoc port, relatives burst into tears when they saw the already lifeless body of Jovit Salinas Dela Cruz. The child is the 40th casualty of the tragedy that happened Thursday noontime.
As of 10:30 a.m. Friday, eight people were still missing with 125 survivors based on the official count of the Philippine Coast Guard in Ormoc.
Family members of those unaccounted for are still awaiting word if their loved ones have been rescued.
Marianella Solis said her one-year-old nephew, Kristof Labadia, is still missing. Kristof's mother died in the tragedy while his father survived.
Solis said the father is still in shock over the loss of his wife, and possibly his child.
"Sabi nya naipit sila sa pinakaloob mismo. Nung hindi na siya makahinga, iniwan na lang daw niya yung mag ina," Solis said.
Divers from several government units started early Friday to search for the remaining unaccounted for passengers of MB Kim Nirvana.
Chief Superintendent Asher Dolina, PNP Region 8 director, said the captain, owner and 17 crew members of the Nirvana remain in their custody.
Dolina said police will conduct its own investigation that will support the investigation that will be done by the Marine Board of Inquiry.
"Itong mga factors na human error, overloading, and other fortuitous events, titingnan natin lahat ng anggulo na yan," he said. With a report by Reuters