Superferry 9 Sinks

SOURCE: Larry Geller's SUBHEAD: Witnesses said it was just like the movie Titanic, minus the icebergs. By Julie Alipala on 8 September 2009 in the Mothers prayed for help, children were heaved into the sea and others fought for lifeboats in the terrifying moments before the SuperFerry 9 went down to its doom off Zamboanga del Norte Sunday morning. image above: Superferry 9 bithred at night ane loading cargo. From

In gripping accounts they gave Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondents, survivors compared the horror they went through in the dying moments of the 7,000-ton ship to what happened to the British liner Titanic, minus the icebergs nearly a century ago.

“It was like Titanic Filipino-style. It was as though we were in the movie but all of it happened,” survivor Raffy Borro said. He also said there was a shortage of life jackets and life rafts.

“People fought for them. It was cold. It was dark. That was why people were afraid to jump into the sea,” Borro recalled, speaking in Filipino.

“When the ship tilted sharply, many people ran and panicked. Children were crying, mothers were also crying and pleading for help.”

A first-time sea traveler, passenger Ronley delos Santos also said that what happened to the ferry and the more than 1,000 people aboard “was like in the Titanic.”

Delos Santos, who was only used to swimming in a river in his hometown in Sultan Kudarat, said he positioned himself on the sun deck and, sensing the ship was going down fast, jumped into the sea.

Billed as unsinkable, the Titanic sank in 1912 after colliding with a massive iceberg during a trans-Atlantic voyage. Some 1,500 of the more than 2,200 aboard perished.

‘No more lifeboats’ Delos Santos said he floated in the waters for some two hours before rescuers on a naval boat fished him and several others out of the sea.

Another survivor, Delia Gandiselia, said she didn’t know what to do except pray. Clutching a grandchild, she rappelled down the side of the tilting boat.

“There were no more lifeboats. People had fought for them,” she said.

She recounted how children were thrown overboard into the arms of passengers swimming desperately in the waters below.

“That was when I saw the children being thrown into the sea (pinaghahagis sa dagat). One of those who were thrown was killed because the person who was going to catch the child struck his head on a steel so he and the child died,” Gandiselia said.

‘Something wrong’ Tilting at around 45 degrees from 3 a.m. Sunday, the ferry was gobbled up by the sea some eight hours later, according to the survivors’ account.

Survivors recounted that when they started the voyage, they felt “something wrong” with the vessel.

Luigi Domingo, a resident of General Santos City, said he and his fellow passengers on the economy deck noticed that the vessel was largely inclining to the right as it sailed on.

This was also the recollection of Rogelio Ganuhay, a carpenter from Guimaras. Both Domingo and Ganuhay said they had encountered no large waves or strong winds during the voyage.

A SuperFerry 9 sea marshal told passengers of the rescuing ship SuperFerry 5—where an Inquirer correspondent was on board—that the ill-fated vessel was not overloaded, but he could not explain why it listed to its starboard.

Rattling sounds The marshal from the Maritime Police said there was still more cargo space available when the SuperFerry 9 left General Santos City.

Past 2 a.m. Sunday, Elsa Monsali said she was awakened by loud, rattling sounds below, referring to the cargo section. It was at this time that she said the ship experienced intense rocking.

Then suddenly, she felt the ship had tilted sharply.

Ganuhay said he was jolted awake when he was thrown down from his upper bunk in the tourist accommodation.

As he rushed out, he saw water already flowing in.

To help out passengers get to the left side of the vessel, the ship’s crew used ropes and also distributed life jackets to passengers.

The deck’s doorway was jammed with people also wanting to escape.

Domingo said he texted his mother in General Santos City to “pray for me.” He told her the ship “would probably go down in the water.”

He said that when his mother called him around 4 a.m., he was already positioned at the railing and hearing orders from sea marshals for people to get ready to abandon the ship “per advice of the captain.”

Survivors said they saw people jumping into the waters while they screamed.

Domingo, who was among the first to jump, said that not many followed “probably because they were fearful about the cold and darkness below.”

This might explain why several life rafts drifted away empty. Some people “floated with the currents” with only their life jackets, Domingo said.

Daylight comes Ganuhay said one woman had asked for his help as her life jacket was detached from her as she was going down. He later learned that the woman was among those who died.

Ganuhay said most of the life jackets that passengers wore had defective strings which broke as people adjusted the jackets.

Many jumped into the waters between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. when daylight broke.

Some survivors rappelled down a rope to the water or onto a waiting boat.

One of those who rappelled down was Reynante Ramos, a pastor of Grace Gospel Church in Zambales. He was clutching his 2-year-old daughter with his right hand. His wife carried their other child.

A number of those rescued were infants; some along with their parents while others were not.

Lost boy A skinhead boy, about 3 years old, was separated from his parents, who had also jumped into the sea. A 2-week-old infant traveling with her mother and aunt was also rescued, minus her mother.

Chelona Pabit, from Agusan, said that as they left port on Saturday morning, the boat began to tilt.

“I noticed when the boat was slowly turning around away from the wharf, it tilted a bit. When the boat leaned to the other end, I heard a strong sound coming from downstairs. Everyone ignored the sound, but we all noticed the boat was tilting,” Pabit said.

For more than 12 hours, the “tilted” ship sailed, Pabit said.

At around 11 p.m., Pabit saw crewmen running down to where the cargoes were located.

“Again I heard another strong sound and I guess a kind of (container) van fell off. I asked the crew what was wrong and they told me there was nothing to worry about as it was just strong waves and strong winds,” Pabit said.

No sleep Pabit said she did not sleep that night. At around 2 a.m., she said, crew members started distributing life jackets to passengers.

“I was not able to get hold of one. They gave me a whistle telling me they had run short of life jackets and we were all told to transfer to the (left side of the boat) to create a balance on the boat. I never heard the ship captain tell us to abandon ship. We were just advised to go to the other end. The lights were blinking then. Sometimes it’s dark, sometimes not,” she said.

At around 3 a.m., she saw many passengers jumping off the boat. She jumped, too.

The sun was already up when a passing commercial vessel came to their rescue.

Comparing the scenes on the ship to those he saw in the film “Titanic,” Borro talked about people running around, others trying to get out of their cabin, and mothers with their children scrambling to the highest part of the boat.

Some passengers had to hold on to railings, boards and ropes, while others fought over life jackets, Borro said.

“It came to my mind that what I saw in the movie, Titanic, was happening to us. Climbing on rails, fighting for a chance to be saved, snatching away some rope from the others to survive and floating on a cold sea for over an hour waiting for someone to rescue us. It’s Titanic, Filipino version,” Borro said. Island Breath: HI Superferry Rudder Problems 2/5/08

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