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Charges filed in Princess of the Stars case

From AFP, Sept. 2, 2008

Criminal charges have been filed against officers of a Philippine shipping company after one of its ferries capsized, killing almost 800 people.

The Public Attorney’s Office, on behalf of the families of 13 of the deceased, filed charges of negligence and reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide against officials of Sulpicio Lines for the capsizing of their ferry in June.

The 23,000-tonne Princess of the Stars, carrying 850 passengers and crew, capsized after hitting a reef off the central island of Sibuyan on June 21 at the height of Typhoon Fengshen. Only 57 passengers and crew survived.

The sinking was the country’s worst maritime disaster for 20 years.

The charges, filed with the Justice Department, named the missing captain of the ship, Florencio Marimon, and the president, chief executive officer and other senior officials of Sulpicio Lines as respondents.

In the complaint, the office said the respondents should be held criminally liable for allowing the ship to set sail despite a warning by the Government weather station that a storm alert had been raised over the area it was heading.

It also cited the absence of any other ferries in the area of the storm as evidence of the company’s “absence of care and foresight.”

Last month, the Board of Marine Inquiry, which investigated the incident, blamed the captain and called for the company to be stripped of its franchise.

Marimon is missing and presumed dead.

Getting Started

Hi all,

As the first post to this blog about accidents, disasters, and related matters, I should say a bit about what will appear here and why this forum might be useful.

Flirting With Disaster: Why Accidents Are Rarely Accidental has just been officially released, and is available at fine bookstores worldwide. I’m really pleased about this milestone, since it’s been a long time coming. From the initial reaction, people seem engaged by the topic, especially the idea that many of the accidents I describe might be a lot more preventable than is generally assumed.

Before I could even get the book finished, however, even bigger “bad things” happened than some of those I had described. In August 2007, the subprime crisis emerged, and more recently the Chinese earthquake has become a fixture in the news. Both of these events fit my criteria for “preventable accidents,” although it is obvious that I don’t mean that we could have kept the ground from shaking in China. (For the moment, I’m going to leave out the cyclone in Burma, since it deserves special attention in my “When the Leaders Are the Problem” department.)

If you’ve been following the earthquake story, you know that the Chinese government has known for some time that Sichuan Province was vulnerable to earthquakes. Extensive development occurred anyway, a great deal of it employing building codes a number of China’s scientists felt were unsafe.

I’ll save the details of this story for a more thorough analysis, but my point is that it makes sense to have a place to discuss such events, and this is it. While the best thing would be if I had little to write about, the way the world seems to be going, this seems unlikely.

So come here often, ask questions, make comments, and join in the conversation.

Perhaps together, we can make the world a little safer.

m/