Death Ship captain not suspicious after second death
IT WAS the second death on board in two weeks - a fatal fall preceded by a trail of blood 10 metres up - yet the Captain of the so-called "death ship" had no suspicions.
The former master of the Sage Sagittarius, captain Venancio Salas Jr told an inquest into the two deaths he did not ask any crew members to investigate the tragedy on board.
Police evidence given to the coronial inquest would later suggest chief engineer Hector Collado received a blow to his skull in the ship's storeroom that knocked him forward.
Moments later his bloodied hands would grasp a railing on board before he fell to his death, landing in the engine room below.
Mr Collado's death occurred two weeks after chief cook Cesar Llanto disappeared from the ship off the Queensland coast and was presumed dead.
Capt Salas told the inquest he did not consider that Mr Collado's death could be a second murder on board.
It was the first in-person appearance of the captain at the inquest, although he appeared by videolink from the Philippines last year.
He was brought to the court after Australian Regional Media revealed he had quietly arrived at the Port of Gladstone this week.
Earlier in the day, Capt Salas faced a marathon line of questioning about his former ship's Video Data Recorder - the maritime equivalent of a plane's black box.
The VDR captured Capt Salas telling a fellow crew member on the afternoon of Mr Llanto's death, "Even if the head office criticises me, I'm still happy, at least he's here now".
Counsel Assisting Philip Strickland SC asked Capt Salas if it showed Mr Llanto was somewhere on board.
"Capt Salas, did you know that in fact Mr Llanto was still on board the ship?"
"I don't know sir," said Capt Salas.
In mid-2015, the inquest was told by ship owners how the ship's black box or VDR had somehow failed to record at the critical moments when the two deaths occurred.
Capt Salas told the inquest on Wednesday he was unaware of how to use the recorder.
Later, he conceded it was his voice on recordings captured by the VDR asking if the recorder was off.
Other recordings played to the inquest featured Capt Salas receiving instructions from superiors to save audio files.
"I honestly forgot that conversation," Capt Salas said.
The inquest is scheduled to run until Friday.