Wednesday, July 6

It was raining when catamaran tragedy occurred – witness

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KOTA KINABALU: A meteorological officer told the Sessions Court here yesterday that it was raining when the catamaran (boat) tragedy occurred in January last year and the condition of the water was normal.

Maqrun Fadzli Mohd Fahmi, 47, who testified before judge Noor Hafizah Mohd Salim, explained the weather report  on the waters at Pulau Mengalum on January 28, 2017 showed that the wind direction was from northeast with a speed of 20-30 kilometers per hour (km/h) and wave height at 1.0 – 1.5 meters and without rain for the whole day.

In the examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Nartiah F. Mirchelle Sambatan, the 34th witness further testified that the data of the weather condition was based on the analysis of records obtained from radar image, wind movement chart and satellite image at the location on that day.

Maqrun confirmed that the methods used are internationally recognized and based on his experience in the analysis, he said that the data obtained in identifying weather elements that occured on the site location was quite accurate at 90 per cent.

“You have already mentioned about the state of the waves which you said the condition of the waters in the country was normal, you also said that the accuracy of the report is 90%.

“Is there any explanation from your side as there are witnesses in this case who were at the scene on January 28,2017, saying that the waves on that time were strong compared to the report?” asked Nartiah.

Maqrun answered, “We, at the department, analysed using available data and the interpretation of the word ‘strong’ is very subjective … I cannot comment. However, from the aspect of the existing data, it shows the value that applies to that day.”

To another question by Natiah on the explanation of the production of strong wind warnings, Maqrun said the warnings were released when the value of wind speed and wave height reached three categories with the lowest at 40 – 50 km/h of wind speed and 3.5 meters of wave height.

To another question by Nartiah, he said that the value of wave height and wind speed that occurred during the incident was very low compared to the warning value.

“If the value is large and requires a warning, we will issue a warning, but in this case no warning was issued,” Maqrun said.

He added that the meteorological data recorded during the incident was common in country and the risk to small boats as mentioned in the report was for boats with a size of not more than five feet long such as fishermen’s boat with a capacity of two persons.

Asked by Nartiah whether the catamaran (boat) could be considered as a small boat as he had meant earlier, Maqrun answered, “No”.

Sharezza Salian, 25, the skipper, together with Leong Vin Jee, 44, the operation manager of Golden Sailing travel company, and Chung Ket Siew @ Chung Siaw Ping, 64, who was the owner of Golden Sailing travel company, face up to 10 charges involving the catamaran which sank on its way to Pulau Mengalum in January 28, last year.

They claimed trial to the charges which were read to them on March 16, 2017.

The trio 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 was framed under Section 337 of the Penal Code.

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 were framed under Section 304A of the Penal Code.

Sharezza and Leong also face two joint charges under the Ports and Harbours Regulations 2008 for failure to keep on the passenger boat with the appropriate safety equipment at all times and for embarking the passengers at Kampung Tanjung Aru Lama Jetty here, which was not a designated landing point.

The alleged offences were 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.

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.

DPP Nartiah was assisted by DPP Nurun Nazifah Muhammad Iyen from the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency.

Leong and his mother Chung are defended by counsel Edward Paul and Elffie Johnny while Sharezza is defended by counsel Hamid Ismail, Benazir Japiril Bandaran and Michelle Usman from the National Legal Aid Foundation.

Also present was Even Chee Vui Siong who holds the watching brief for the victims.

In the meantime, Nartiah informed the court that the prosecution has another three more witnesses to testify.

The court fixed February 28 and March 1-2 this year for the continuation of the trial.