KOTA KINABALU: Police are investigating the maritime accident in Sandakan on Thursday (Feb 13) between a passenger boat and a fishing trawler for criminal negligence, says Sandakan district police chief Asst Comm Azhar Mohd Hamin.
He said they had classified the investigations under Section 304A of Penal Code, provides two-year imprisonment, fine or both to any person who causes the death of any person by "rash or negligent act".
He said police initially probed the case under Section 280 of the Penal Code for negligence in navigating a vessel that could injure others. Section 280 provides for six-months jail, a fine of RM2,000 or both to those found guilty.
Asst Comm Azhar said police reclassified the case after the body of General Operations Force personnel Koperal Asman Ongkal, 40, was recovered at 6.30pm on Friday (Feb 14), a day after a passenger boat with 37 people (including Asman) hit the tow ropes of a fishing vessel tugging a smaller boat close to the Sandakan market jetty at 5.40am.
He said that they were still investigating if there were elements of negligence on the part of the passenger boat skipper.
He urged maritime operators to observe the rules and guidelines already in place while at sea and also ensure that there were sufficient life jackets and that their boats were not overloaded with passengers.
"We are still investigating if all the passengers in the boat was wearing a life jacket, as well as if the boat was overloaded with passengers.
“Looking at the size of the passenger boat, we think it could only carry about 12 to 14 passengers," he added.
Kpl Asman was buried at the Islam Baru cemetery in Sandakan around 3.30pm on Saturday (Feb 15).
He left behind his wife Roslina Sari and two children still studying in secondary and primary schools.
According to some survivors, Kpl Asman had helped save some of the victims in the accident before he went missing.
Three people, including the skipper of the boat, were critically injured in the mishap, while 12 others were admitted to the hospital for treatment and observation.
The passenger boat was from Kg Tanjung Aru and was ferrying mainly students attending a secondary school in Sandakan town.
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