KOTA KINABALU: A pathologist told the Sessions Court here yesterday that the cause of death for four victims in the catamaran capsize tragedy was drowning.
“The results of the post-mortem on the bodies of He Runyuan, Xie Luo and Zhang Xiao Kun showed that death was consistent with drowning while the body of Wang Jianyi had decomposed, so the cause of death could not be ascertained.
“However, based on the occurrence, cause of death may be due to drowning,” Dr Jessie Hiu told Judge Noor Hafizah Mohd Salim who presides over the trial of three individuals facing up to 10 charges arising from the catamaran capsize while on its way to Pulau Mengalum in January, last year.
Sharezza Salian, 25, who was the skipper, Leong Vin Jee, 44, the operation manager of Golden Sailing travel company, and Chung Ket Siew @ Chung Siaw Ping, 64, who is the owner of Golden Sailing travel company, claimed trial to the charges which were read to them on March 16, last year.
They were charged separately with causing hurt to 20 passengers, all from China aged between 17 and 50, by taking the boat to sea so negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others.
The alleged offence is framed under Section 337 of the Penal Code, which carries a jail term of up to six months or a maximum fine of RM1,000, or both, upon conviction.
Sharezza, Leong and Chung were also alleged to have negligently caused the death of four China nationals, including two women, aged 27 and 49, but not amounting to culpable homicide.
The charges are framed under Section 304A of the Penal Code, which provides for a jail term of up to two years, or a fine, or both, on conviction.
Sharezza and Leong also face two joint charges under the Ports and Harbours Regulations 2008 for failure to keep on the passenger boat the appropriate safety equipment at all times and for embarking the passenger at Kampung Tanjung Aru Lama Jetty here, which is not a designated landing point.
The alleged offences are framed under Rule 16 of the Ports and Harbours (Sabah Licensed Small Ships) Regulations 2008 and Rule 13 of the Ports and Harbours (Ports, Harbours and Dues) Regulations 2008, respectively.
The indictment carries a maximum fine of RM500,000 or a jail term of up to two years or both, on conviction.
Meanwhile, Leong and his mother, Chung, were jointly accused of failing to keep the boat licence on the passenger boat at all times, which was charged under Rule 9 of the Ports and Harbours (Sabah Licensed Small Ships) Regulations 2008.
Chung was also alleged to have employed Sharezza as the skipper of the boat without altering and reporting the particulars of the skipper to the nearest licensing authority, an offence framed under Rule 13 of the Ports and Harbours (Sabah Licensed Small Ships) Regulations 2008.
All of the alleged offences were committed at Kampung Tanjung Aru Lama Jetty, at a travel company in Asia City and in the waters off the coast of Mengalum Island here between 9.15am and 11am on January 28, 2017.
Dr Hiu, who was the 31st prosecution witness, further testified during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Nartiah F. Mirchelle Sambatan that all of the corpses were China citizens with two men and two women aged between 27 and 49.
She said that during the post mortem which were done on January 30, February 1 and 4, 2017, three of the corpses were in good condition while the other was already decomposed.
“The corpses of He Runyuan, Xie Luo and Zhang Xiao Kun were in good condition and did not show any signs of decomposition while Wang Jianyi’s corpse had deccomposed. Most of the tissues on the face, head and hand were gone and bones remained,” explained Dr Hiu.
To another question by Nartiah, Dr Hiu told the court that the corpses of He Runyuan and Xie Luo were identified by their wives, Zhang Xiao Kun through her husband while Wang Jianyi through DNA profiling test.
When asked to explain the details of the post mortem, Dr Hiu said, “I carry out external and internal examinations on all corpses. Apart from the inspection, I also took samples for lab testing.
“From the external examination, the bodies of He Runyuan, Xie Luo and Zhang Xiao Kun showed skin burn and desquamation due to sunburned especially on the face, neck and both upper limbs.
“There are also some mild abrasions. The skin on the palm of the hands and feet macerated due to long immersion in water. Lips and fingers had cyanosis.
“Internal examination indicates that the respiratory tract contains foamy fluid. The surface of the respiratory tract congested. The lung congested and contains fluid.
“The body of Wang Jianyi was decomposed. Most of the tissues on the face, head and hands are absent and the remaining were bones. In front of the abdomen there is scarring due to surgery of ‘Lower segment caesarean section’ to give birth to a child. Internal examination shows that all organs had decomposed,” she said.
To another question by Nartiah, Dr Hiu said that she could not determined the time of death of the deceased.
However, when asked about how many hours the victim died before the post-mortem was made, she said that from the corpses of He Runyuan, Xie Luo and Zhang Xiao Kun, which did not dacay, they died within 24 hours of the time they were found while Wang Jianyi was within a week.
Nartiah: Is the condition of the deceased’s body consistent with the incident of the boat which sank on January 28, 2017?
Dr Hiu: Yes
Nartiah: Is there any extraordinary injuries on the deceased which can raise any doubts?
Dr Hiu: None.
Counsel Edward Paul and Elffie Johnny defended Leong and Chung while Sharezza is defended by counsel Benazir Japiril Bandaran from the National Legal Aid Foundation (NLAF).
The trial will continue on January 29.