An Indonesian passenger ferry that caught fire last week capsized Sunday as accident investigators and journalists inspected the charred vessel, killing one and leaving three others missing, witnesses and media reports said.
The accident occurred hours after authorities announced that the death toll from Thursday’s blaze had climbed to at least 42 after fisherman and navy officers pulled more corpses from the Java Sea.
The gutted wreckage had been towed and anchored near Jakarta’s port when it suddenly tilted and sank, witnesses told local TV and radio, adding that a Lativi cameraman died after being rushed to the hospital and another cameraman and two police were missing.
“It happened so quickly,” Lt. Col. Hendra Pakan told The Associated Press. “The ship almost completely disappeared into the sea.”
The Levina 1 was carrying at least 330 passengers when a pre-dawn fire broke out Thursday in a truck on the car deck, sending hundreds of people jumping into the sea, some clinging to young children.
More than 290 people were rescued from waters 50 miles north of Jakarta, in the second maritime disaster in Indonesia in recent months. In late December, a ferry sank in a storm, killing more than 400.
The initial death toll from Thursday’s accident more than doubled to 42 on Sunday after scores of bodies were recovered over the weekend, Pakan said, adding that the search for more victims would continue.
The bodies of 18 men, a woman, a teenager and a baby “were all discovered about 30 miles from the scene,” some in the sea and others near two islands, he said.
Families gathered at the port waiting to identify missing relatives.
‘It was shaking, tilting and then sank’
On Sunday, journalists who were on board the charred ferry with transportation safety investigators and police described how the vessel suddenly sank with roughly 16 people on board.
“It happened so fast, just five minutes after we entered the ship,” said Widodo, a MetroTV reporter. “It was shaking, tilting and then sank.”
“It was our own mistake,” he said, adding that many of the journalists were not wearing life vests. “I nearly drowned ... but eventually pulled my body up to the surface and then was helped by another man.”
Mardianto, a journalist with el-Shinta radio who goes by one name, said at least four people had been rushed from the scene with serious injuries. “I was on the third deck and had to jump into the water,” he said.