CEBU

Death toll rises as rescuers find 2 more bodies

Photo from Philippine Coast Guard

THE bodies of two more crew members of the ill-fated LCT Cebu Great Ocean were recovered Friday morning, April 23, 2021, raising the death toll from the maritime tragedy to six.

Seven crew members remained missing. Search and rescue operations led by Coast Guard Station (CGS) Surigao del Norte were ongoing.

The bodies of Clint Auxtero and Lemuel Dadivas were separately found in Barangays Balite and Oslao, both in San Francisco town in Surigao del Norte, according to CGS Surigao del Norte chief Elaine Pangilinan.

She said they were identified by the human resources officer of their company. No other details were available.

Pangilinan could not also provide the names of the missing crew because the list drawn up by the company did not match the account of Roger Polo, the ship’s chief mate, who is also one of seven survivors.

The other survivors are Noli Labucay, Arjie Bacarra (Talisay City), Jojie Villanueva (Talisay City), Felipe Queben (Asturias, Cebu), John Renzo Guanzon and Junmar Galeos.

The fatalities were Norman Galon, Michael Inoc, Jose Sherwin Laniba and Mark Evan Cuesta.

Galon was found in Barangay Balite while Cuesta was found in Barangay Mabua. Inoc and Laniba were found in Barangay Jubgan, San Francisco.

‘Don’t worry about me’

The remains of Galon arrived at Pier 1, Cebu City early Friday morning. These were brought to the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes before these were turned over to older brother Pejy Galon in Sitio Galaxy, Barangay Danglag in Consolacion.

Pejy told SunStar Cebu that the family was still in shock over Norman’s death.

The last time they heard from Norman was on Sunday, April 18, 2021.

Norman had called his wife, informing her that the LCT Cebu Great Ocean had tilted because of the big waves and strong winds caused by Typhoon Bising.

His last words were, “Ayaw mo kabalaka nako (Don’t worry about me).” Then the line was cut off.

Pejy said his younger brother could not have endured an ordeal at sea because he was paralyzed around 15 years ago.

He said Norman had an accident that resulted in a blood clot in his brain and rendered him paralyzed for a brief period.

Dream

Norman was the breadwinner of the family. He left behind a wife and two children, aged nine and three years old.

Norman, who was a licensed electrician, had dreamed of working overseas. He left home to work on LCT Cebu Great Ocean in February 2021.

It was his first time to work on board a ship. A one-year interisland work experience would have been his ticket to an overseas seafaring job.

Pejy said their family met with the shipowner on April 22. The shipowner had promised to provide assistance and release the 13th month pay and the last pay of Norman.

Consolacion, Cebu Mayor Johannes Alegado also told SunStar Cebu that the municipal government was willing to provide assistance to Norman’s family.

Homecoming

One of the survivors, Jojie Villanueva, was reunited with his parents Lisa and Warlito in Surigao City Friday morning.

In a post on his official Facebook page, Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. said Villanueva’s parents arrived safely in Surigao City and proceeded to Caraga Regional District Hospital, where their son is confined.

Gullas said he felt relieved when he saw a photo of Jojie reuniting with his parents.

Gullas said he met with Jojie’s parents in their home in Barangay Linao, Talisay City on Thursday, April 22.

He then ordered his personnel to bring the couple to the Cebu Port so that they could take a boat to Surigao City.

Gullas said his friend, Chase Cokaliong, provided a free round trip ticket via Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc.

The mayor said Cokaliong also offered the same privilege to Jojie.

Investigation

A formal investigation into the accident is being conducted by the Marine Casualty Investigation Unit of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Pangilinan said.

LCT Cebu Great Ocean ran aground near the shoreline of Barangay Cantapoy, in Malimono, Surigao del Norte, on Monday afternoon, April 19.

Pangilinan earlier said the vessel had come from Agusan del Norte, where it was loaded with nickel ore from Agata Mining Ventures Inc.

The PCG, citing Polo’s account, said the ship was anchored near Barangay Lawigan, Tubay, Agusan del Norte on April 16.

Its starboard anchor chain broke on April 17 as the ship was buffeted by big waves and strong winds caused by Typhoon Bising. The captain tried to seek shelter, but the vessel drifted towards Jagna, Bohol.

At about 11 p.m. of April 17, the vessel began listing by five to six degrees, causing the cargoes to spill to the starboard side.

Polo related that the crew moved the cargoes towards the portside.

At around 7 a.m. of April 18, the angle of list had increased to 10 degrees as shown on the clinometer and seawater had flooded the engine room and steering room.

About two hours later, oiler Mark Louie Masibag turned off the engine to prevent electrocution. The crew donned lifejackets and, with life rings, abandoned ship.

Polo said they tried to stay together, but eventually got separated because of the rough seas.

Labucay was the first to be rescued at 9:05 p.m. of April 20, about 60 hours since they abandoned ship.

The other six were rescued between 4:30 a.m. and 6:19 a.m. of April 21. Their ordeal had lasted nearly 70 hours. (WBS/KFD/JKV)


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