Sabah boat tragedy: Body found, captain jailed


PETALING JAYA: The body of a woman has been found in Sabah waters near where a catamaran sank last week, The Star Online reported today.

This comes as the captain of the boat that sank with 28 China tourists and three crew, pleaded guilty to causing death by negligence and was sentenced to six months in jail by the Kota Kinabalu Sessions Court.

Today is the eighth day of the search covering waters of Sabah, Miri and Brunei.

The body that was recovered was in a red shirt and black pants. It was found in fishing nets this morning and sent for identification, said Kota Kinabalu Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency director First Admiral Adam Aziz.

He said the body was recovered some 13 nautical miles from where the boat sank in waters off Pulau Mengalum.

Adam also said rescuers believe that the bodies of the six still missing – five Chinese tourists and a crew member – could be stuck on the sea bed.

Meanwhile, The Star Online reported that the captain, Sharezza Salian, 25, who has seven siblings, pleaded for a lenient sentence, citing poverty and the need to look after his parents.

No plea was recorded from the catamaran owner Leong Vin Jee, 44. He was asked to return to court on Monday as he needed a Chinese interpreter.

Leong was allowed bail of RM5,000 and is required to report to the police on the 15th day of every month. He is also barred from leaving his home and must report to the court if he wants to leave the district.

Both Sharezza and Leong were accused of knowingly ferrying tourists on a vessel despite it being overloaded at about 9.15am on Jan 28.

In a report by Chinese news agency Xinhua, Sabah assistant minister of tourism, culture and environment Pang Yuk Ming said a joint investigation committee has been set up to get to the bottom of the incident. A preliminary report will be released next week.

The Sabah government has vowed to take measures to ensure the safety of foreign tourists. Last year, over 340,000 Chinese tourists visited Sabah.

The catamaran sank around an hour after it left the Tanjung Aru jetty but the company operating the vessel only reported it missing to the authorities 12 hours after the boat left the dock.

Search and rescue efforts began immediately and 20 Chinese tourists were rescued. Three drowned.