The MV Sage Sagittarius
The MV Sage Sagittarius

Death ship inquest returns to question executive on board

HE WAS the man sent to help calm the nerves of the Sage Sagittarius crew after a sailor mysteriously vanished, presumed dead.

Today, Kazuhiro Hayashi is to be the first executive from Hachiuma Steamship to answer questions at a coronial inquest into a spate of fatalities on the so-called death ship.

The inquest followed a major investigation into how three men came to die aboard the Sagittarius in late 2012 by Australian Regional Media - the publishers of this newspaper.

The first death was that of chief cook Cesar Llanto who vanished as the Sagittarius headed south, about 900km north-east from Mackay in Central Queensland on August 30, 2012.

Aboard the death ship: An Australian Regional Media investigation
Aboard the death ship: An Australian Regional Media investigation

Mr Hayashi boarded the ship with safety superintendent colleague Kosaku Monji on September 3 to help calm the now-terrified crew.

Documents viewed by ARM showed they were joined by two contracted security officers at a cost of $3200 per day plus expenses to further protect sailors on board.

The ship's budget for feeding the crew averaged $6 per person per day.

In previous hearings, Sagittarius captain Venancio Salas faced accusations that he bullied a young, gay cook named Jessie Martinez - a close colleague of Mr Llanto.

Capt Salas admitted to the inquest in May that he sold guns to fellow sailors on the ship, a contravention of international laws and company guidelines.

Capt Salas has otherwise denied any wrongdoing, accusing an oiler named Raul Vercede - who was known to have argued with Mr Llanto - as having some role in the cook's death.

Two weeks after Mr Llanto's disappearance, chief engineer Hector Collado became the second man to die on board.

He fell 11m to his death as the ship was arriving at the Port of Newcastle on September 14.

A forensic pathologist later found Mr Collado had suffered a blow to the head before his fall.

Mr Vercede was no longer on board the ship at the time of his death. Capt Salas would leave the ship soon after.

Counsel assisting Philip Strickland told the inquest in late May that both deaths were suspicious.

On October 6, Mr Monji would become the third fatality on board after being crushed to death as the Sagittarius unloaded its coal cargo in Japan.

His death is largely outside the scope of the inquest.

Following the first inquest hearings, a Senate Inquiry will now examine flag-of-convenience ships - those registered in developing nations to minimise scrutiny, taxes and worker entitlements

The Sagittarius is owned by a Japanese firm but registered in Panama, one of the three most popular registries for FOC vessels.



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