Don't lose hope, survivor tells families of missing ship crew
ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Finally reunited with his family, the lone survivor – so far – of the cargo vessel that sank in freezing waters off Vietnam on January 2 told families of his fellow crew members not to lose hope.
"To the families of my collagues, don't lose hope," Ilonggo cook Angelito Rojas said in a news conference 5 days after his rescue, organized by Magsaysay Shipping Lines Corporation which manned all-Filipino Bulk Jupiter owned by Gearbulk of Norway.
Of the 19 Filipino crewmembers of the ill-fated vessel, two have been confirmed dead, while 16 – two from Iloilo – are still missing.
Accompanied by family members and authorities, it was hard to tell which was Rojas until he was introduced. Wearing a white polo shirt and greeting the room with a polite smile, he soon revealed he was adrift on Vietnamese waters for 9 hours before his rescue
Narrating his experience, Rojas said: “Everything happened so fast. All of sudden, the boat just leaned on one side. I jumped and that’s it… Some of my crewmates were left. I just jumped together with our ship captain.”
A life jacket and prayers
Rojas said he just woke up, and was drinking coffee in his cabin when a distress alarm was sounded and the crewmembers were ordered to proceed to the lifeboats. He took a life jacket, found his way out, and saw the vessel’s ship captain jump off board before him.
“I cannot remember everything that happened. I cannot remember…. Everything happened so fast,” he kept saying during the media interview when asked for further details.
Rojas claimed he heard no explosion before the sinking and that the vessel sank “very fast” after they abandoned it.
All that ran in his mind while being adrift in the waters for 9 hours was to keep praying and that he must survive, he said.
A graduate of the Western Institute of Technology in Iloilo City, the 42-year-old cook and father of two daughters hails from Tubungan town in southwest Iloilo. He has been a cook for about 20 years.
Rescue efforts continue
Captain David Kirley, Gearbulk's Manila representative, assured that they are still focused on search and rescue efforts.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and loved ones of the missing colleagues. We ask for everybody’s patience in what is now a very, very difficult time,” Kirley said.
He added that they “will not speculate with any of the events” until they can get facts.
Magsaysay Chief Operating Officer Alexander Querol said that it is not the first time that his company, which is also manning other vessels, had encountered this kind of incident.
The focus now is how to help Rojas and how to cooperate with the government, other countries and the principal company to rescue the 16 other crew, Querol said.
The jurisdiction in terms of the rescue and operations remain with the Vietnamese authorities.
“We just follow the protocols of the experts and let them get on and do their job,” Kirley said.
Two of Gearbulk's ships are joining the search and rescue operations with the Vietnamese, Malaysian and Japanese authorities and other neighboring countries. – Rappler.com