June 26, 2018 / 5:45 AM / 3 months ago

Indonesia names captain, three officials as suspects in deadly ferry disaster

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian police have named four people as suspects in a criminal probe into the sinking of an overloaded ferry on a volcanic lake in which it is believed some 200 people died.

Search and rescue officers carry items they believe belonged to passengers from a ferry which sank last week in Lake Toba, at Tigaras Port, Simalungun, North Sumatra, Indonesia June 25, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Irsan Mulyadi/Antara Foto via REUTERS

The vessel sank in rough weather on Lake Toba on Sumatra island last week, leaving three confirmed dead and nearly 200 missing, in one of Indonesia’s deadliest ferry disasters in nearly a decade.

A search and rescue helicopter taking part in the search for a ferry that sank earlier this week in Lake Toba prepares to land at Tigaras port, Simalungun, North Sumatra, Indonesia June 23, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Irsan Mulyadi / via REUTERS

North Sumatra police chief Paulus Waterpauw confirmed to Reuters the vessel’s captain and three port and transportation officials were being investigated for violating laws on shipping services.

“Their method was to make as much profit as possible by stuffing the vessel beyond capacity,” he said, according to media.

He added the ferry, called Sinar Bangun, did not have a sailing permit, was not seaworthy, and did not fulfil safety standards.

FILE PHOTO: Rescue team members use rubber boats during a search operation for missing passengers after a ferry sank earlier this week in Lake Toba in Simalungun, North Sumatra, Indonesia, June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta/File Photo

The ferry may have been carrying nearly five times the number of passengers it was designed for and dozens of motorcycles. Eighteen people, including the captain, survived the accident.

If prosecuted the suspects face up to 10 years in prison and a 1.5 billion rupiah ($105,000) fine.

Recovery teams using underwater drones on the weekend estimated the location of the sunken ferry at a depth of around 450m (1,476 feet).

Most victims are believed to be trapped inside. Authorities have yet to decided whether to raise the boat, as divers will not be able to descending to such depths, officials said.

Reporting by Tabita Diela, Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Michael Perry

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