Saturday, May 19, 2007

Police continue investigation into Levina I fire

Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Battling heavy rain and high seas, search and rescue teams on Tuesday recovered the bodies of three more victims of the Levina I ferry fire and subsequent sinking, bringing the official death toll from the disaster to 53.

Officials were able to identify two bodies found Tuesday morning from ID cards found in their pockets. They are Adj. Sr. Comr. Langgeng Widodo and Comr. Widiantoro of the National Police's forensic laboratory.

A third body recovered later in the day was identified as that of SCTV cameraman Muhammad Guntur.

The three died when the charred ferry sank Sunday off Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta with police investigators and journalists aboard.

Widodo's body was recovered at around 7:30 a.m., about 1.5 kilometers to the north-west of where the ferry went down. Widiantoro's body was recovered nearby. The bodies of the two were transported to the National Police hospital in Kramat Jati, East Jakarta, for autopsies.

The Levina I caught fire last Thursday on its way from Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta to Bangka Island, off Sumatra.

On Sunday, a team of police forensic investigators and officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, accompanied by 12 television journalists, boarded the gutted ferry off Tanjung Priok Port. The ferry sank while the group was aboard, leaving four people missing. In addition to the two police investigators and Muhammad Guntur, Lativi cameraman Suherman also died in the accident.

Searchers on Tuesday also recovered an explosives detector taken aboard the ferry by investigators, said Col. Didin Zainal Abidin of the Navy's Western Fleet.

Search operations, which involve 16 ships, two helicopters and 100 divers from the national search and rescue team, were suspended at around 3 p.m. due to bad weather.

He said search operations would resume Wednesday, focusing on the wreckage of the ferry.

Didin said the search for bodies might be called off sometime this week, but the final decision would be made by the national search and rescue team.

However, he said the Navy would continue patrolling the waters in the area around the wreckage.

Meanwhile, police have named three people as suspects in the Levina I fire. The ferry's captain, Andi Kurniawan, deck officer Maryono and ferry operator Aliong are accused of negligence resulting in death.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Adang Firman told reporters Tuesday that even though the ferry sank along with crucial evidence, police would continue their investigation into the fire. He said officers would question witnesses and examine relevant documents.

The ship carried more than 300 passengers, but many of the victims were not listed on the passenger manifest.

Immediately after the accident it was reported that 16 people were killed and 300 survived.

The Indonesian Red Cross, which received reports from families of missing passengers, was the first to say there were more missing passengers than originally believed.

Four bodies were recovered Saturday, while another 22 were found Sunday.

As part of the official response to the accident, the Tanjung Priok Port harbormaster, Johny Karel Lantang, has been placed on administrative leave.

Transportation Minister Hatta Rajasa said Monday he would replace Director General for Sea Transportation Harijogi and Director General for Air Transportation M. Iksan Tatang.

The decision comes after a string of serious transportation accidents over recent months, including the Levina I fire.(02)

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