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CGA fails to clarify if collision caused fatal capsizing

02/21/2024 07:42 PM
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A Buddhist monk takes part in a traditional ceremony held on the seventh day of after one's death, for two Chinese fishermen who died during a Taiwan Coast Guard vessel's pursuit, in Kinmen County on Wednesday. CNA photo Feb. 21, 2024
A Buddhist monk takes part in a traditional ceremony held on the seventh day of after one's death, for two Chinese fishermen who died during a Taiwan Coast Guard vessel's pursuit, in Kinmen County on Wednesday. CNA photo Feb. 21, 2024

Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA) on Wednesday failed to clarify if a patrol boat hitting a Chinese vessel it was pursuing caused a fatal capsizing off the coast of Kinmen last week.

In a press release, CGA Fleet Branch Director Liao Te-cheng (廖德成) said only that the brief five-minute maritime pursuit could not be fully documented, without addressing the cause of the Chinese vessel's capsizing.

Liao was referring to a CGA patrol boat's pursuit of a trespassing Chinese vessel off the coast of Taiwan-controlled Kinmen on Feb. 14, which left two of the Chinese vessel's crew dead.

"While the situation may have resulted in the dispersion of evidence, it does not change what really happened," Liao said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Chinese-language newspaper United Daily News reported that the CGA crew involved admitted during questioning that there were collisions during the chase, citing Shih Chia-jung (施家榮), head prosecutor of Fuchien Kinmen District Prosecutors Office.

However, Shih said in a video posted following the report's publication that the Fuchien Kinmen District Prosecutors' Office "has not expressed any opinion to the media regarding the attribution of responsibility for the incident."

"Whether the vessels collided and overturned has not been confirmed by either the spokesperson for the district prosecutors' office or in a press release," Shih added.

Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration Feb. 14, 2024
Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration Feb. 14, 2024

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, the CGA issued a statement saying that as its patrol boat attempted an inspection, the Chinese vessel fled in a "zigzagging fashion."

During the chase, the Chinese boat "accidentally capsized," causing four of its crew to fall into the water, according to the CGA.

Although the patrol boat was able to rescue all four from the water, two of the crew members were later declared dead at hospital, the CGA said.

While the CGA press release on Wednesday did not respond directly to the UDN report, it did say that coast guardsmen faced challenges collecting evidence of the high-speed pursuit in which repeated contacts between vessels took place.

According to the CGA, the four CGA members onboard-- two preparing for inspection, one operating the boat, and another responsible for vigilance and evidence collection-- had to remain focused on maintaining balance before a secure boarding.

The CGA said it would consider upgrading evidence collection facilities on its relatively small 10-ton inspection boats, such as installing cameras on the gunwale, to avoid the same situation where the crew have no time to reach hand-held cameras kept in the cabin.

Meanwhile, Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), head of Taiwan's Ocean Affairs Council, which oversees the CGA, said in a Facebook post Wednesday that "every CGA chase involves multiple contacts."

"The CGA has no reason to hide the facts," Kuan added.

According to prosecutors, the two survivors, who were deported back to China Tuesday, said they had no objection to the law enforcement procedures of the Coast Guard.

However, during an interview with China Central Television on Wednesday, the two surviving Chinese crew members blamed the CGA for the capsizing, saying that the patrol boat had rammed their own vessel.

"Our boat couldn't have capsized on its own - even with a sharp turn. They [the CGA patrol boat] rammed us, flipped our boat and that's why we ended up in the water," the Chinese crew members said.

(By Hung Hsiuh-kuang, Chang Yi-liang and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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