Inquiry finds 95 victims of the MV Butiraoi ferry disaster died of hunger, dehydration not drowning

An inquiry report into the disaster off the coast of Kiribati was made public on Monday. The investigation revealed that drunk crew members and incompetent captain led to the death of 95 off the 102 people who boarded the ferry, the MV Butiraoi in a remote island in the South Pacific.

The commission, which was set up by the Kiribati government last year found that most of the 95 victims died from hunger, dehydration and hypothermia. One woman died while giving birth during the accident

Although the commission found that the actions of the crew had contributed to the worst maritime disaster in Kiribati’s history, it found there were no willful intentions or actions which had led to the deaths.

It made a number of recommendations, including that monuments should be erected to remember the dead.

Kiribati ferry tragedy:

On 18 January 2018, MV Butiraoi left the island of Nonouti carrying 88 passengers and 13 crew members. Bound for Betio, the ferry was planned to make the 240-kilometre (150 mi) voyage in two days. According to survivors the overloaded ferry broke in half and sank.

The ferry was reported missing on the 19th. On 26 January, Kiribati notified authorities in Fiji and New Zealand who, along with multiple fishing vessels, searched the areas surrounding the ferry’s planned path. Australia and the US joined in the aerial search in the days that followed.

Two days later, a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion patrol plane spotted a wooden dinghy containing seven passengers of the Butiraoi who were then rescued by a nearby fishing vessel. The aerial search was called off on 1 February, with some fishing vessels continuing the search. No further passengers were found.

The ship’s owner, Kirennang Tokiteba, in an interview blamed the captain for running the ship aground a few days prior to the sinking, damaging the ship’s propeller shaft. A survey done to assess the damage to the ship had found several problems with the ship, and stated that the ship was not to carry passengers.

In the interview Tokiteba said that the captain defied those orders, boarding 88 people, despite the fact that during normal operations, the ship’s maximum capacity was 69 passengers. The ship was also carrying 35-tonne of coconuts, well in excess of cargo limits.

Source : Various