Police in a central Philippine city said Saturday that they have filed murder complaints against the owner and the crew of a ferry that capsized shortly after pulling out of port, leaving more than 50 people dead.
The complaints were filed with the local prosecutor late Friday as the 36-ton M/B Kim Nirvana was lifted from the water, said Senior Inspector Rio Tan of the Ormoc City police.
Regional coast guard commander Capt. Pedro Tinampay said at least 59 people died and 145 survived Thursday's disaster, including all 18 crew members.
Tinampay said a maritime casualty investigation that has begun will determine how many people actually were aboard the vessel. The 204 so far known to have been on board are more than the 189 initially reported, Tinampay said, adding that authorities will reconcile different figures for survivors and casualties.
The ferry overturned minutes after pulling out of the port on its voyage to one of the Camotes Islands, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the south.
Tan said murder complaints were filed against ferry owner Joge Bung Zarco, boat captain Warren Oliverio and 17 other crew members.
The local prosecutor will review the complaints to determine whether there is enough evidence to file charges in court.
Tinampay said some passengers reported that the boat suddenly swerved to the right, possibly causing its cargo, including 80 sacks of cement, to shift to one side of the ferry.
“It capsized and its right outrigger broke,” Tinampay said. “The captain suddenly turned the boat to the right, and we have people saying that.”
Oliverio denied he made a sudden turn, blaming strong waves for flipping his boat. “It was the waves,” he told ABS-CBN television. He said that he could not have made any sudden turn because there was another vessel close to the ferry.
Tinampay said eight bodies were recovered from the boat after it was hoisted out of the water. City rescue group head Ciriaco Tolibao said three more bodies were recovered from the sea early Saturday.
The boat remains belly up on the Ormoc wharf and will be turned upright to allow investigators to get a closer look, Tinampay said.