An inquiry report into the death of 95 people, aboard an overloaded vessel near Kiribati in January 2018, revealed that most of the passengers died of hunger, thirst, hypothermia and mental breakdown. The commission, in its 37-page report, concluded that a woman died while giving birth in 'most unhealthy and extreme conditions', whereas one person succumbed to injuries sustained when the vessel broke apart. It also held the operator, TOK’s Holding Co Ltd, responsible on several fronts of negligence.
The commission said that the operator not only refused to accept responsibility but also provided false and misleading information to them. It added that the operator was indifferent and showed no concern for the safety of passengers and the crew.
“The master and the crew were not organized on what to do during the tragedy,” read the report adding that the master, in particular, showed a complete lack of leadership.
The report also established the fact that the master and crew were drunk during the working hours which gave every drunken crew “the feeling of grandeur and power to make decisions alone.” It also concluded that they didn’t find evidence to show that willful intentions and actions may have contributed to the loss of lives of passengers.
Last year, MV Butiraoi vessel departed from Nonouti island of Kiribati with 89 passengers and 13 crew onboard even after the marine office had issued a notice of restriction to not carry passengers. When the vessel entered the open sea, it encountered waves of up to 2.5 metres high created by easterly winds. The vessel started pitching and pounding against the waves which led to the failure of main structural cross-beams that held the twin hulls near the fore part of the vessel. Later, the hulls began to separate causing the collapse of the superstructure.
One of the two 25-person liferafts became unusable after it got punctured on the wreckage. People were helped onto Aluminium boats with several men hanging on the sides. On the third day of the accident, one aluminium boat, tied with the other, capsized and sank. The second boat was prevented from sinking as the chief mate cut the rope. “With hardly any food and water, the survivors began to perish and dwindle,” read the report.