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Witness: Dalny Vostok trawler sank like Titanic, survival suits were few

April 07, 2015, 15:47 UTC+3 YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK

No alarm was sounded on the ship and there were only 90 survival suits for 131 people on board, one of the rescued sailors, Yevgeny Vitrikus told the media

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Sailor saved from Dalny Vostok trawler

Sailor saved from Dalny Vostok trawler

© Sergey Krasnoukhov/TASS

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, April 7. /TASS/. The Dalny Vostok trawler, which sank in the Sea of Okhotsk five days ago, did not have enough survival suits on board for all crew members, one of the rescued sailors, Yevgeny Vitrikus, told the media on Tuesday.

"No alarm was sounded on the ship," Vitrikus said. "I heard some noise and stepped out into the corridor. Burmese were running either way, all wearing survival suits. They knew where to find them. It was illegal crew members who loaded the gear when we were in Korea. The suits were too few. There were 90 of them for 131 people on board.

The surviving witness said the ship sank in 30 minutes.

"It was really scaring. Have you seen the Titanic movie? That’s what it looked like. People were being pulled down. The captain was yelling, crying for help. Everybody around was shouting. A mechanic from the ship tried to grab me from behind. I pushed his hand away and turned back only to see he was already dead," Vitrikus said. When he found himself overboard, Vitrikus was helping a woman and a Burmese crewmember to stay afloat for some time. Later, he managed to swim to a pallet floating nearby and held on to it for two and a half hours until the moment he was rescued.

"When I was recovered from the water I had been dead already. The doctor says my heart had stopped beating two minutes before that. The doctor did artificial respiration procedures and an injection into the heart. I am told he saved my life," Vitrikus said. He blames the tragedy on the lack of ballast and on greed.

"The ship had already developed a list as there was no fuel in the tanks. Yet we tried to have another trawl net of fish. The captain was greedy. Wished to make as much money as he could," Vitrikus said, adding that the trawler had been reconfigured for commercial purposes, too. Instead of the standard 96 beds there were 131. Standard double-bed cabins housed three Russian crewmembers. And the five-bed cabins, fifteen Burmese.

As Sakhalin’s acting governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, said on Tuesday the trawler’s tanks still had a tiny 57 tons of fuel, while at least 250 tons is required for the ship to retain stability. When the netful of fish began to be pulled up, the ship developed a list and water started pouring into the portholes, which are often kept open.

The Dalny Vostok trawler sank in the small hours of April 2.

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