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Aboard The Death Ship pt2: Mystery of a bleeding engineer

  • A coronial inquest has begun into two deaths aboard the Japanese MV Sage Sagittarius - dubbed the "death ship".
     
  • Chief cook Cesar Llanto disappeared from the ship on August 30. 
     
  • On September 4, engineer Hector Collado fell 11m to his death. Both are considered suspicious.
     
  • The inquest has already heard allegations of homophobic abuse, gun-running and bullying.
     
  • On October 6, five weeks after Mr Llanto disappeared, safety superintendent Kosaku Monji was killed in an apparent industrial accident in Japan. This is mostly out of the coroner's jurisdiction.
     
  • After almost two years of investigation, Australian Regional Media can for the first time present the full detail of what happened on board the Sage Sagittarius.

 

MOMENTS before engineer Hector Collado fell 11m to his death, he suffered a cut to his skull which would cover his hands in blood.

His landing on the deck below shattered his ribs, pelvis, spine, thigh bones, and other parts of his legs.

It was the fall that killed him, but evidence suggests it was the hit on the head that pushed him towards the railing.

Mr Collado was the second fatality in two weeks aboard the MV Sage Sagittarius.

The first was chief cook Cesar Llanto who vanished from the hulk as it headed south off the Queensland coast.

New South Wales Police labelled Mr Collado's death suspicious.
 

Hector Collado
Hector Collado

Its investigation would run alongside the Australian Federal Police probe into the earlier death of the cook.

Both deaths will be examined by New South Wales Deputy Coroner Sharon Freund from Thursday.

The Sagittarius is one of thousands of bulk carriers that visit Australian ports each year as part of the multi-billion dollar shipping trade.

The Sagittarius has previously visited the Queensland ports of Gladstone and Abbot Point.

Mr Collado's death at 8am on September 14 was just hours before he was due to board a flight home to the Philippines.

His family said that in their final conversations, Mr Collado warned them he was being targeted and potentially followed while aboard the ship.

He no longer wanted his grandchildren to greet him at the airport.

His wife and son Rhonald were told to pick him up in a different car.

He told them he was "fearful" and "unable to speak freely".

Earlier, Mr Collado told his brother that he had been helping the now-vanished Mr Llanto "with a personal problem".

Up until Mr Llanto's death, he was working with Mr Collado, and an oiler named Raul Vercede to help a gay kitchen worker named Jessie Martinez.

Mr Martinez was allegedly being abused physically and emotionally by Sagittarius captain Venancio Salas after word spread about the kitchenhand's sexuality.
 

Mr Vercede and Mr Martinez had each been sent home from the ship a week earlier.

Mr Collado's wife told the AFP she spoke to Capt Valas at her husband's funeral.

She said the captain might have feared her husband would "whistleblow" against him about something, though she could not say what.

The company is offering AUD$48,100 in compensation, or about eight times the average Filipino's income, if Mrs Collado vows not to pursue legal action.

Instead, she has hired legal help and is considering a civil suit against the company.

A company spokesman for NYK Line and owners Hachiuma Steamship has said previously the shipping giant did not know what killed Mr Collado.

Mrs Collado said the company had told her he had died following a heart attack. News reports at the time suggested the same.

But evidence from forensic experts found Mr Collado suffered a 2cm cut to his head just behind the middle of his hairline.

Sage Sagittarius.
Sage Sagittarius.

Whatever hit him forced Mr Collado's head and body to tip forward.

Forensic Pathologist Dr Brian Beer told the inquest he could find nothing at the scene that would have struck Mr Collado's head by accident.

"I think it was suspicious," he said.

The trail of blood marks Mr Collado's final steps from the entrance of a nearby storeroom as his bloodied hands left stains on the railing.

Mr Collado paused by a handrail, causing blood to pool on the ground. He would then fall to his death.

If the strike to his head was from a machine or falling object, Australian crime scene officers did not discover it at the scene

His system contained no booze or drugs, just a meal of rice and vegetables.

The company meanwhile has long faced questions over its handling of the deaths, as international investigators claimed it willingly obstructed their work and refused access to witnesses.

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Topics:  sage-sagittarius



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