THE OWNER of a ferry that capsized in Kratie province Saturday, killing at least 17 people, remained missing Monday amid conflicting reports that he had either drowned in the accident or had escaped and gone into hiding, police said.
Police officials had spoken with the ferry pilot’s wife and daughter, and it was unclear whether he would face criminal charges if he was found alive, said Kratie provincial police Chief Chuong Seang Hak. He said that he believed the man survived the accident.
An employee said Sunday that he saw the owner swim to shore and hide. The man’s daughter, however, told the Post she thought he had drowned.
A dozen other survivors were accounted for by Monday, Chuong Seang Hak said.
Roughly 30 passengers were thought to be on the ferry, which officials said was made to carry 20 people, when it sank in heavy rain Saturday night after those on board panicked.
“Passengers didn’t stay calm when the rain hit,” Chuong Seang Hak said, describing a scene of terrified victims frantically grabbing at one another through the darkness in a struggle to stay afloat.
Meanwhile, distraught relatives mourned their dead Monday. Eang Te, 54, lost four members of his family, including two young grandsons, ages 4 and 5.
“I feel really hopeless,” Eang Te said as family members gathered for a mass funeral for 15 of the dead.
Chhlong commune Chief Lao Bunnim said he was shocked at the news of the drowning. “The boat owner has been doing this job for a long time, and such a terrible thing has never happened before,” he said.