The bodies of the two Filipino fishermen who died in a collision with a Condor ferry last month have been released for repatriation after inquests into their deaths were opened this morning.
Deputy Viscount Mark Harris, the presiding coroner, explained that the purpose of the hearing was to formally release the bodies of Larry Simyunn and Jervis Baligat to allow applications for repatriation and funeral arrangements to be made.
At the conclusion of the hearing, he adjourned the inquests until a later date to allow further investigations to take place.
Two separate areas of work into the fatal incident involving the L'Ecume II – which sank after colliding with Condor's Commodore Goodwill freight ship off Jersey's west coast around 05:30 on Thursday 8 December – are still ongoing.
This involves maritime safety investigation which will determine the facts of the collision and what lessons can be learned, as well as an independent investigation to determine whether any criminal charges should be brought as a result.
Pictured: The L'Ecume II trawler. (Rob Currie)
It was confirmed yesterday that Andy Shearwood, a former Detective Chief Inspector with Thames Valley Police, was appointed as the Senior Investigating Officer for the latter independent investigation – known as 'Operation Nectar'.
At this morning’s inquest, senior identification manager Chief Inspector Chris Beechey said that established, internationally-agreed disaster victim identification (DVI) procedures had been followed in order to identify the bodies of the two fishermen.
He explained that DVI procedures require victims to be identified using one primary method of identification – DNA, fingerprints, or dental records – which is then backed up using secondary identification evidence.
Chief Inspector Beechey said that, for both Mr Simyunn and Mr Baligat, positive fingerprint identifications were used as the primary method of identification as the “quickest and most available method at the time”.
Secondary identification evidence gained through family liaison officers was then used to confirm the identifications.
Pictured: Jervis Baligat, Mick Michieli and Larry Simyunn were all aboard the L'Ecume II when it sank.
Police Coroners Officer Samantha Rawlinson formally confirmed the identities of the two men at the inquest using documents such as birth certificates and passports.
She explained that, although the presumed date of death when the maritime collision occurred, life was not declared extinct until 15 December when the two bodies were brought ashore “due to the nature of the recovery operation”.
Post-mortem examinations were carried out on the 20 and 21 December 2022. Both causes of death remain undetermined, pending the results of laboratory investigations carried out by the pathologists.
The Deputy Viscount praised the “significant amount of work to recover the fishermen from the seabed where they were found”.
The search of the L’Ecume II trawler concluded last week without finding the body of the boat’s skipper, Michael ‘Mick’ Michieli.
However, the Government confirmed that an exclusion zone remains in place around the site of the collision off St. Ouen’s Bay to allow work to continue.
A fundraiser started by Mr Michieli's daughter, Rebecca, to raise money to support the families of Mr Baligat and Mr Simyunn and assist with their repatriation has now topped £104,000.
In this week's Bailiwick Podcast, Police Chief Robin Smith spoke about how the island has responded to the twin tragedies of L'Ecume II and the Pier Road explosion...
Find Bailiwick Podcasts in all your favourite pod places.
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