Sage Sagittarius.
Sage Sagittarius.

Black box info missing from death ship, inquest hears

RECORDINGS from the black box on a ship that three crew members mysteriously vanished from or died on are missing, a coronial inquest has been told.

An investigation into the disappearance of Sage Sagittarius cook Cesar Llanto and the deaths of engineer Hector Collado and superintendent Kosaku Monji resumed at the NSW Coroner's Court in Sydney on Monday.

The deaths all happened within less than two months of each other in late 2012.

Mr Collado, the ship's 57-year-old Filipino chief engineer, was found to have received a severe blow to the head before falling 11m as the ship arrived at the Port of Newcastle.

Mr Monji was believed to have been crushed to death as the so-called death ship unloaded coal in Japan.

His death was not part of the coronial inquest.

Kazuhiro Hayashi, an executive of the Hachiuma Steamship company that owned the vessel, faced the court via video-link from Japan with the help of an interpreter on Monday.

He said audio supposed to be recorded on the upper deck was missing from the ship's voyage data recorder - the ship's equivalent to a plane's black box - when Mr Llanto disappeared about 900km off the coast of Mackay.

He also said data for the days Mr Collado and Mr Monji were killed had been overwritten instead of being saved.

Counsel assisting the Coroner Philip Strickland said shipping companies had a legal obligation to save any black box data when a crisis occurred to aid in investigations.

Mr Hayashi boarded the ship just days after Mr Collado's disappearance to try to manage the situation.

In his original statement to Australian police, he said he had suspicions Mr Collado had not fallen overboard by accident and that it could have been suicide or murder.

Mr Hayashi told the inquest on Monday he could not remember suggesting the ship's oiler, Raul Vercede, may have had a role in the man's death.

When asked if he believed Mr Collado's death was an accident, suicide or murder, Mr Hayashi said he did not know.

The ship's captain Venancio Salas - who pointed the finger at Vercede as a possible murderer - admitted to an inquest hearing in May he had sold guns to fellow crewmen, against international maritime laws.

Mr Hayashi was asked to bring more records and give evidence to the court when the inquest resumes in September.

The current hearing will continue on Tuesday.

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