Death Ship: Double fatality findings delayed

A CORONER has spent two years investigating how two men died on a ship in Australian waters but will take more time before handing down her findings.

The Coroner's Court has delayed the hearing, that was scheduled for noon.

Capt Salas was leading the MV Sage Sagittarius coal carrier when two men were killed amid allegations the captain was part of the physical and emotional abuse of selected crew members.

On August 30, 2012, the ship's senior cook Cesar Llanto vanished from the ship off the Queensland coast. His remains were never recovered.

Just two weeks later at the Port of Newcastle, the ship's senior engineer Hector Collado was in a storeroom when he suffered a blow to his skull moments before he fell from a high railing and plunged 11m to his death.

Japanese owned Sage Sagittarius bulk carrier CONTRIBUTED
Japanese owned Sage Sagittarius bulk carrier CONTRIBUTED

The third death on board was that of safety supervisor Kosaku Monji who had been dispatched to the ship to calm the crew after the first death. He was crushed to death by machinery while the ship was docked at a Japanese port.

An investigation by News Corp Australia into the deaths prompted the coronial inquest into the deaths of Llanto and Collado, announced in mid-2015.

Since then, the inquest has heard allegations that Capt Salas physically abused a gay crew member and illegally sold guns on board.

Capt Salas confirmed both of those allegations to the court.

The Coroner has also heard evidence suggesting Capt Salas deleted information from the ship's voice data recorder - akin to a plane's black box - at the time of both Australian deaths. 

Capt Salas has consistently maintained his innocence in relation to the two deaths on board the Sage Sagittarius that are the subject of the inquest.

In closing remarks made to the inquest late last year, counsel assisting Philip Strickland said "detailed evidence suggests foul play", particularly given the "deep conflict aboard". 

"The deaths occurred in intense and building conflict," he said.

In relation to the death of the ship's chief cook, Mr Strickland told the court "Capt Salas either caused or authorised the disappearance, or at least he knows about it".

Mr Strickland also pointed to evidence showing Mr Collado fearfully told his family to bring separate cars for his arrival back in the Philippines. He had also told others on board he was scared for his own safety.

"On balance, your honour will find Hector Collado died as a result of foul play but it is a more difficult finding than Cesar Llanto," Mr Strickland said.

The International Transport Workers Federation that represents seafarers has called for Captain Salas to be charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The findings are due to be handed down at noon on Friday.