Sunken boat was out of order, documents show
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet
A boat hit rocks and sank along Şile’s Mendirek shore, killing three rescue workers who were attempting to aid the crew of a sunken cargo ship. DHA photoThe rescue boat that hit rocks and sank along Şile’s shore while attempting to aid the crew of a sunken cargo ship Dec. 4 turned out to have been malfunctioning, official documents have revealed.
Ahmet Kasarcı, who survived the accident by jumping off the boat onto the rocks, said in his testimony that the late Captain Cemil Özben made a phone call after the boat’s engine stopped and said, “The engine stopped, you told me that you would terminate my employment if I did not go to sea. Now we are dying, do as you know!”
When Istanbul was hit by an extreme storm Dec. 4, the St. Kitts and Nevis-flagged ship Volgo Balt 199, with 11 Ukrainian and one Russian crew member aboard, sunk off the Black Sea coast of Istanbul while sailing to the Turkish port of Antalya from Russia. The vessel was carrying coal. Search and rescue teams saved four members of the cargo ship, recovered one body and were searching for seven other crewmen when one of the rescue boats hit rocks and also sank along Şile’s Mendirek shore, killing two of the rescuers.
Refusing to sail
Captain Özden’s brother Hasan Özden claimed that his brother was called on duty because another crew refused to sail. “After the cargo ship sank, Coastal Security asked Captain Rıfat Çırtlık and his crew to start a search and rescue operation. When Captain Çırtlık refused to sail, the Coastal Security Directorate General [Salih Orakçı] called my brother Cemil Özden, who was on his weekly day off.”
According to claims, Çırtlık was asked to tender his resignation after refusing to sail, as
was Captain Özden, according to the testimony of his wife, Günay Özben.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a captain working at the General Directorate of Coastal Security said a chopper had been hovering above the sea and if a rope had been sent down from its deck it could have saved lives. “Captain Özden sailed after the boat hit the rocks, and he managed to step on the stones of the land-locked harbor. If there had been a territorial security crew ready at their posts, he could have been saved. There was no such crew because the general director cut down their employment quota. Their presence could have saved all those people who literally walked into their deaths.”
Hasan Özden said Orakçı should be removed from his post to clarify the case.
“Orakçı and his crew are murderers and responsible for the deaths of so many people. I wonder how he can go on living despite his guilty conscience. I will consider him a killer all my life. He sent those kids to their deaths with full awareness of what he was doing.”
The Coast Guard General Directorate denied claims that the rescue boat was malfunctioning yesterday, adding that they would take legal action following the news report. In an official written statement, the directorate said the rescue boats owned by the directorate were fully equipped according to global standards.
“Our institution carried out its standard maintenance repairs and all the necessary procedures to guarantee the safe operation of this boat, as is the case with all the vessels we possess. The engine of the boat in question, as well as all similar systems that are paramount for safe operation, were checked immediately prior to sailing, and no malfunction was reported by either the boat machinist or the boat captain,” the statement said.