Mysterious Deaths, Gun Running, Assault – What the Heck Happened Aboard the Sage Sagittarius?

Sage Sagittarius file photo (c) MarineTraffic.com/
Sage Sagittarius file photo (c) MarineTraffic.com/Rick Banyard

 

An Australian court has heard of a captain’s scheme to cover up gun sales and assault on board a Japanese-owned bulk carrier where three crewmen died.

The new details emerged during a New South Wales State Coroner’s inquest into the mysterious deaths of two crew members killed in separate incidents while working on board the Panama-flagged coal carrier Sage Sagittarius. The third death is not being looked into as it falls outside the Coroner’s jurisdiction

During the inquest, the Filipino captain, Captain Venancio Salas, admitted to collecting money from the sale of guns to his crew and hiding gun permits from port state control inspectors in Newcastle, local media reported.

Cesar Llanto, the ship’s cook, disappeared from the coal carrier and is presumed to have gone overboard as the ship made its way towards Newcastle on August 30, 2012. About two week’s after Llanto’s death, the chief engineer was killed in an 11-meter fall just before he was set to disembark the vessel in Newcastle.

Earlier in the inquest, the court heard that Captain Salas had found out that Llanto was in possession of a complaint accusing him of selling guns and assaulting  crew, local reports said. The Captain ordered the complaint destroyed on the day of Llanto’s disappearance, the reports said.

Captain Salas, who did not attend the inquest but phoned in via video, denies any involvement in the deaths of the two crewmembers, but believes that Llanto’s disappearance did involve foul play.

The third fatality occurred in October 2012 when an inspector was crushed to death by a conveyor belt while the ship was in Japan.

The inquest into the two deaths is to find the cause of the fatalities.