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CGA confirms Kinmen capsizing incident caused by patrol boat collision

02/22/2024 08:13 PM
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Coast Guard Administration officials are pictured at a news conference on the Feb. 14 boat collision, in Kinmen County on Thursday. CNA photo Feb. 22, 2024
Coast Guard Administration officials are pictured at a news conference on the Feb. 14 boat collision, in Kinmen County on Thursday. CNA photo Feb. 22, 2024

Kinmen County, Feb. 22 (CNA) The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) confirmed Thursday that the fatal capsizing incident on Feb. 14 off the coast of Kinmen was caused by a collision with a CGA patrol boat.

The confirmation from CGA Ninth Fleet Branch Deputy Director Chen Chien-wen (陳建文) came after days of criticism from Chinese authorities and Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang lawmakers, who accused the CGA of not being forthcoming about the cause of the deadly incident.

The CGA has denied such accusations, saying that the case was still under investigation and urging the public to have faith in the judicial process.

In a press conference on Thursday, Chen gave a more detailed account of the CGA's version of events, saying that a CP-1051 patrol boat had received a report at 12:52 p.m. on Feb. 14 that a Chinese speedboat had entered prohibited waters and was operating near Beiding Island off the east of Kinmen.

The Chinese boat was still in operation when coast guardsmen arrived and began their inspection and expelling operations, Chen said.

He said the captain of the patrol boat then turned on warning lights and sirens, per standard boarding inspection procedures, while speeding toward the boat.

The Chinese vessel then tried to escape in a zigzagging fashion to avoid boarding and inspections, Chen said.

The pursuit lasted for more than one minute before the escaping vessel suddenly took a sharp turn right and its boat tail collided with the patrol boat's front right side, Chen said.

The force of the collision caused the speedboat to capsize, he added.

Two CGA officers promptly jumped onto the overturned vessel to try and search for those who were suspected of having fallen into the water. They rescued two Chinese crew members who emerged conscious from the waters and continued to give emergency treatment to the other two who were found unconscious, he said.

The two unconscious crew members were sent to a Kinmen hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

In a separate press conference on Thursday, Fuchien Kinmen District Prosecutors Office head prosecutor Shih Chia-jung (施家榮) quoted conflicting statements from the two surviving Chinese crew members during earlier interrogations.

One of the crew members, surnamed Xu (徐), said that a collision took place, while the other, surnamed Wang (王), said that the boat was traveling at a high speed and he was not aware of any collision, Shih said.

Taiwan Coast Guard personnel surround a Chinese speed boat that capsized in Taiwanese waters off Kinmen on Feb. 14. Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration
Taiwan Coast Guard personnel surround a Chinese speed boat that capsized in Taiwanese waters off Kinmen on Feb. 14. Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration

Meanwhile, CGA Deputy Director Hsu Ching-chih (許靜芝) on Thursday addressed criticism that the incident was not recorded on camera, explaining that the officers could not hold a camera as they had to focus on maintaining balance on the speeding and rocking boat.

He said the CP-1051 was a small vessel and was not equipped with monitoring systems, nor were officers required to wear body cameras.

However, he acknowledged that officers wearing body cameras could help to avoid similar situations in the future, adding that the CGA would therefore equip all four officers on vessels of this model with body cameras in the future.

He also offered an apology on behalf of the CGA, acknowledging that the failure to record the incident had added to the distress of the deceased's families and sparked controversy.

The CGA also promised to offer condolence payments to the families of the deceased and said the amount would be determined when investigations were complete.

Meanwhile, a non-profit organization supporting CGA officers in Taiwan said they are planning condolence payments for the survivors and families of the deceased.

(By Chang I-lien, Hung Hsueh-kuang, Huang Li-yun, Lin Chiao-lien and Wu Kuan-hsien)

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