Captain Arrested in Fatal High Seas Hit-N-Run Case

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March 12, 2012

Police from the Indian state of Kerala on Monday arrested Gordon Charles Pereira, captain of the Singapore-flagged bulk-carrier M/V Prabhu Daya that was allegedly involved in a fatal high seas hit-n-run with an Indian fishing trawler off the Kerala coast on March 1, killing five fisherman.

The arrest comes after a Madras High Court today dismissed a bail plea filed by Pereira saying that the investigation should lie within the ship itself, not the crew.

The police also allege that crew members of Prabhu Daya, including the captain, may have pushed Prasobh Sugathan, the vessels second officer, overboard following the collision.  Sugathan, who is the first accused in the hit-n-run case, was reportedly in charge of the vessel at the time of the accident and was first thought to have jumped overboard in an apparent suicide attempt following the collision.   Sugathan was picked up by a Sri Lankan fishing boat the next day with minor injuries.

Investigators also note that the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) of the M/V Prabhu Daya may have been tampered with as it is missing vital information from a 12-hour period when the vessel may have collided with the fishing trawler and the second officer went mission, further raising the suspicions of foul play.

The M/V Prabhu Daya remains anchored off Chennai port and is expected to be brought to Kochi on Thursday for further investigations. The vessel has been detained since March 9 pursuant to a Madras High Court order after a civil suit was filed by the owner of the fishing trawler.

India media indicates that although the captain has been formally charged, he remains on the vessel and will be transferred to land only after the next officer assumes command of the ship.

Indian authorities suspected the M/V Prabhu Daya was the culprit in the fatal hit-n-run when it was identified as one of eight vessels in the area at the time of the accident and did not respond to radio calls from rescue coordinators.   The vessel reportedly had 25 crew members on board at the time of the collision and at least five of them, including the second officer, were fully aware of the incident.

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