Philippines ferry owner faces charges in deaths

Death toll rises in Philippines ferry disaster
Death toll rises in Philippines ferry disaster

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Death toll rises in Philippines ferry disaster 01:04

Story highlights

  • Owner of ferry is now in police custody
  • 59 people were killed when ferry capsized

(CNN)The owner of a passenger ferry that capsized in the Philippines, killing 59 people, is in police custody and has been charged with multiple counts of homicide, according to national police inspector Mark Nalda.

Further details were not immediately available Sunday.
    About 140 people survived Thursday's incident, according to the country's coast guard.
    The MB Nirvana tipped over roughly 200 meters (220 yards) from shore. The accident occurred just minutes after the ferry left Ormoc City, in Leyte province. It was bound for the town of Pilar on Camotes Island, in Cebu province.

    'Big thud' before boat flipped over

    Three Americans were among the survivors. They are Rhome and Chip Nuttall, and Larry Drake, according to Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon.
    Rhome Nuttall, who helps run a medical mission in the Philippines, told CNN that the boat was "very crowded."
    "There was a little wave, which is normal, but yesterday that caused the boat to flip to the right," she said Friday. "I ran to the left hoping we could help to balance the boat. When we flipped, I said: 'OK, this is it. OK, this is it.'"
    Nuttall she heard a loud noise just before the vessel capsized.
    "I think it was that big thud. I think that was cargo that shifted and that caused the boat to flip," Nuttall said.
    Nuttal said water washed her out of the boat. Everyone around her was panicking. She said it took about five minutes to find her husband.

    Passengers described as 'common folks'

    Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine Red Cross, described the vessel as a commercial "pump boat" or banka, which is essentially a canoe-style craft with outriggers powered by a small engine.
    They're widely used across the Philippines for transporting people and goods as well as for fishing.
    Gordon said the boat operates three times a day on the route from Ormoc to Camotes Island.
    "The passengers would have been farmers or fishermen, or ordinary businessmen -- common folks," he said.
    Rhome Nuttall told CNN that one of the other boats that work the route was broken Thursday, so the MB Nirvana was extra crowded.
    "They are not very well off, otherwise they would be on better vessels or take the plane," Gordon said. "But obviously, these are poor folks, simple folks who are trying to eke out an existence."
    This style of outrigger boat has no cabins, he said, which should make it easier for divers to find anyone trapped under the canopy or keel of the vessel.