Philippine ferry operator faces criminal charges for fire that killed seven people

Photo: Philippine Coast Guard

An official of the Philippine Coast Guard has said that a local ferry operating company will be charged with criminal liability if it is proven that a recent fatal fire incident on board one of its vessels was the result of negligence.

On Tuesday, May 24, coast guard spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo told local media that the investigation into the fire on the fast ferry Mercraft 2 will be completed within a week’s time, with the findings to be eventually submitted to the country’s Department of Transportation for further review.

Balilo added that the ferry’s captain has been taken into custody as part of the investigation and additional crewmembers may be called in for questioning over the next few days.

Mercraft 2 was underway in the waters off Quezon province just south of Manila when a blaze ignited on board on the morning (local time) of Monday, May 23. Seven people are confirmed to have died while another four individuals are still missing.

The remaining 123 passengers and crew were rescued by coast guard personnel and the crews of some Good Samaritan vessels. The survivors include 26 people who suffered varying degrees of injury.

The operator could also face suspension of its franchise and additional charges may be filed against other personnel within the company, added Balilo.

Local municipal officials in Quezon have meanwhile called for the operator’s activities to be suspended, as one of its other vessels had figured in a fatal capsizing incident in those same waters in December 2017.

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