Monday, September 14, 2009

Navy cites two sea marshals for saving lives

Malaya, Friday, 11 September 2009

By: Victor Reyes

Two Navy personnel who were among four sea marshals in the Super-
Ferry 9 which sank Sunday off Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte were
recognized yesterday by the Navy for acting "beyond the call of duty."

Gunnersmate Third Class Anifer Bucao and Fireman First Class
Aviation Mechanic Oliver Cogo received the Distinguished Navy Cross
from Navy chief Yice Adm. Ferdinand Golez at the Navy headquarters.

The Distinguished Navy Cross is the third highest decoration for
Navv personnel, after the Distinguished Conduct Star and the highest,
the Medal of Valor. It is the counterpart of the Gold Cross medal
which is awarded to soldiers engaged in combat.

"They helped a great number of passengers, rescued them and without
their efforts I'm sure, there could have been more casualties," said
Golez in citing the two personnel.

Authorities have been deploying sea marshals in commercial vessels
since the February 2004 sinking of the Super Ferry 14 off Manila Bay after
it caught fire. Investigations showed an explosive device planted by the
Abu Sayyaf caused the sinking. The attack left at least 120 people dead.

The marshals are tasked mainly to secure the vessels and thwart
possible terror attacks.

Aside from Bucao and Cogo, the two other marshals were from the
PNP and Coast Guard.

The SuperFerry 9, which was carrying at 969 passengers and crew,
listed for hours before it sank. Ten passengers died.

Bucao, who was positioned at the sun deck, said the passengers panicked
when the ship listed and the captain issued an order to abandon
ship around 3 a.m.

He said the vessel sank around 9 a.m. after all the passengers and
crew had disembarked.

He said many of the passengers were in panic and crying. "We tried
to calm them by informing them that rescuers are coming," he said.
A male passenger some distance away from him jumped off the ship,
he said. The man's head hit the ship's hull, resulting in his death.

He said he abandoned ship after seeing his area clear of passengers.

"I jumped because the ship is already in danger. It's no longer advisable
to stay there," he said.

Bucao said he did not hear any explosion or fire that occurred prior
to the listing, down playing possibility that it could have been caused
by a terrorist attack.

Initial reports indicated a hole in the hull caused the sinking. There
were also reports that the generator set of the vessel went on and off
before the vessel listed.

Cogo said he was stationed at the middle part of the ship, particularly
the billeting area. He said the passengers gathered at the portside or
left side of the ship as it listed starboard side or the right side.

He said while he was checking if the passengers were already wearing
life vests, he was telling them not to give up.

"I told them we'll be staying together and I won't leave them," he
said. Cogo said the since it was not possible to jump from the portside,
he taught the passengers how to slide starboard where a Navy ship was
already waiting to rescue them. The ship had listed about 50 degrees
from the initial 35 degrees.

Cogo also said he fetched at least 15 children from the portside and
brought them to the right side of the vessel.

The last child he fetched, Cogo said, was a special child who punched
him. He said three crewmembers and a Canadian helped him.

Cogo also said he gave his life vest to one passenger he saw having
trouble with his life vest.

Cogo said after the passengers had disemharked, Cogo said he double
checked the cabins to make sure there were no passengers left.

When it was already clear, he said he and his companions also left
the ship. He said they used a firehouse to rappel from the portside
because the vessel had already listed 90 degree,. Cogo said he was the
last to abandon ship.

The passengers were later picked up by ships fWI11 the Navy, Coast
Guard and other vessels that responded to the distress call.

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