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Young police officer rescued some fellow passengers in Basilan ferry fire

A police officer rescued at least seven to eight passengers during the fire on MV Lady Mary Joy 3 that left at least 29 people dead.

According to Raffy Tima's report on "24 Oras", Police Lieutenant Ricardo Juhan said that he went to sleep when the ship left the Zamboanga port.

He said he woke up to commotion during the fire.

“Hindi ko na makita ang paligid ko sobrang dilim na tapos yung usok itim na rin po bumalik ako sa bedding ko tas kinuha ko yung life jacket ko tapos tumalon na lang ako,” Juhan said.

(I couldn't see my surroundings anymore, it was so dark due to black smoke. I went back to my bed, I took my life jacket and then I just jumped in the water.)

He said most of the passengers who jumped into the ocean had no life jackets, which led them to panic.

“Nagsisigaw din po kasi ako sabi ko wag kayo mag panic ganito ganyan tapos ina-advice ko na rin po sila sabi ko hubarin yung maong pants tas kung anong position sa paglangoy ang gamitin backfloat ganun po,” he said.

(I'm also screaming because I said don't panic then I gave them instructions too. I said take off your jeans and taught them what position to use in swimming like back float.)

Juhan said fishermen were the first who rescued them. They were transferred to the bigger rescue boats soon after.

The police officer said he was having thoughts if he would stay on the shoreline.

“Naisip ko po na marami pa pong pwedeng magsalba, pwedeng makita either patay o buhay. Nag stay pa kami ng one hour or so doon sa may laot. May isa pang buhay na nakita kami habang ginagawa yun tapos unfortunately may anim kaming narecover na casualty po, tatlong bata po tapos tatlong matanda,” he said.

(I thought that many more passengers could be saved, or be found either dead or alive. We stayed for 1 hour or so there in the sea. We found another passenger alive but unfortunately, we recovered six casualties, three children and then three adults.)

Juhan said he did not receive any instruction or alarm from the crew of the ship.

“Personally po nagising na lang ako sa nagkakagulong tao, ni alarm walang tumunog na alarm, walang prior instruction, wala po talaga,” he said.

(Personally, I just woke up to the noise of the crowd, no alarm, no prior instruction, nothing at all.)

The legal counsel of the ship, however, maintained that the crew “extended everything in their power to check passengers.”

“The crew extended everything they did everything in their power in order to check on the passengers. Unfortunately, due to the thick smoke, due to the fire hindi na nila makita lahat (they cannot see everything) but I assure you that they did everything they can in their power,” Atty. Hash Ibrahim, legal counsel of Aleson Shipping lines, said.

Juhan then appealed to follow the “best practices” to prevent this incident.

“Yung best practices dito is kagaya ng eroplano dapat before or prior na aalis yung barko, magkakaroon ng safety briefing po kung ano ang gagawin ng tao,” Juhan said.

(Follow the best practices here like airplanes, before or prior to the departure of the ship, there will be a safety briefing on what the person will do.)

The Maritime Industry Authority on Friday said it has launched a marine safety investigation into the fire on MV Lady Mary Joy 3.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said a total of 252 individuals were affected during the fire including 205 passengers, 35 crew members, eight personnel from the Army, and four from PCG.

There were 216 survivors and 29 people who perished in the sea tragedy, including 11 whose remains have been identified (drowned at sea), while 18 (burned on board the vessel) still need DNA testing. Seven people were still missing.

MV Lady Mary Joy 3 was en route to Jolo, Sulu from Zamboanga City on March 29 when it caught fire at 10:40 p.m. The blaze was declared fire out at 7:30 a.m. on March 30. —Richa Noriega/NB, GMA Integrated News