PCG sends marine investigators to Quezon to probe ferry fire

Published May 24, 2022, 1:55 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) deployed on Tuesday, May 24, marine investigators to Real, Quezon to start the investigation on MV Mercraft 2 which caught fire while sailing last Monday.

Commodore Armando Balilo, PCG spokesperson, said personnel from the Marine Casualty Investigation Team traveled to Real town to determine what caused the blaze which killed seven passengers and injured 24 others, including three who are in critical condition. Meanwhile, 103 others were unscathed in the incident.

MV Mercraft 2 catches fire while sailing at sea in Real, Quezon on May 23, 2022. (Courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)

“This is a very unfortunate incident and [Department of Transportation] Secretary Art Tugade instructed us to get to the bottom of it and prevent a repeat of this incident,” Balilo said.

“Our Marine Casualty Investigation Team is already there and they were given a directive to start the probe,” he added.

John Lerry Escareces, the skipper of MV Mercraft 2, is placed under custody of the PCG. His mother, 57-year-old Charito, was among the seven individuals who died in the incident.

“The boat captain is in our custody and we will invite the crew members for questioning to find out what really happened,” Balilo said.

Balilo said some of the survivors saw that the fire started from the engine room. Among the angles being looked at is whether the fast craft vessel was racing with another seacraft.

“We heard a testimony from one survivor about it. All of these things will be considered so that we can establish concrete evidence. If we can prove that someone erred, they should be punished and charged,” the PCG spokesperson noted.

It was also revealed that another vessel of Mercraft, Mercraft 3, sank in December 2017, leaving five people dead.

Erwel Merania, the owner of the Mercraft vessels, has already communicated with the PCG to send an initial assistance to all the fatalities and the injured victims, according to Balilo.

Out of the four Mercraft vessels that Merania owns, only two units were traveling prior to Monday’s accident.

Now, the remaining Mercraft vessel is suspended from operating pending the results of the investigation.