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Survivor narrates nightmare on sinking vessel

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The lone survivor of the nine employees of the West African Examination Council that were onboard the vessel NIKO IVANKA that sunk late Saturday, July 17, 2021, near the coast of Marshall City in Margibi County has been recounting his ordeal here.  

“It was by God’s divine grace and not any human effort that I made it through and I also pray that the same grace by which I was successful will extend to my colleagues who have not yet been found, that they will find them”, Mr. Raymond C. Young explains to Joy Fm 101.5 on Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Monrovia via mobile phone.

“We got to the pearl around 4 pm. The vessel was carrying lots of assorted items from what I did notice, it had cement, those jumbo bags from Cemenco, when I asked one of the crew members, he said they loaded about seven of those trucks onboard. They had rice, two LEC transformers, not those ones on the pole but those big ones that are planted on the ground, there were zinc, four drums of fuel, and other assorted items”, he says.

Mr. Young narrates that they took off from the Freeport of Monrovia at about one minute after seven Monrovia time on Saturday morning, July 17, 2021, and sailed smoothly initially, observing the area features of Monrovia. “You could see the American Embassy, the Executive Mansion, JFK, and then somebody posted that the engine went off.”

He continued that after the engine failed, the crew brought a heavy [diesel] generator which was used to continue the voyage, but noted that hence, an atmosphere of unease gripped everyone onboard that something sinister was looming.   

“The picture I sent into our chatroom, it was a highly rustic vessel; so the process of even boarding the vessel itself was very risky; the chance of even falling into the pearl was highly likely”, he explains.

He says from there, the nine staff of the West African Examination Council  (WAEC) Monrovia Office that was onboard lost complete confidence that they would have had a successful sailed.

The WAEC staffers were carrying examination papers to Maryland County and other parts of Southeast Liberia when they met their unfortunate fate.

“So as we started to go we began to see those landmarks, but unfortunately as we approach Marshall, the weather started to get bad; there was a huge wave. So around 2 am in the Marshall area the captain began to go to the deep sea, around 87 degrees because I registered that on my smartphone”, he details.

 He says, after a while, a lady onboard alarmed that water had entered the vessel so he asked a lady also onboard whose father is said to be the manager at the Harper Port to hand him (Mr. Young) his phone.

“So as I came down, the lady said water in the vessel, and then the other guy said that’s why I don’t like to put a woman on the vessel and then I said my dear calm down before you make people scare, but the girl said no and she pointed, there was a gush on the side of the vessel and water began to pour in.”

He says at that moment, everybody was tense and a guy immediately wore his lifejacket, but the ones procured by the WAEC Monrovia Office for its staff were mere reflective jackets, lighter than the actual lifejacket.

“They had 12.5 kilograms so if you are a Science student, you convert that it can’t hold any grown man”, he notes referring to the jacket acquired for them to wear onboard the vessel, adding that they cannot even be used in a swimming pool because it is not the original lifejacket normally used during an emergency on board planes, ships or vessels.

Young says at that moment when he turned to his right, he saw the entire ocean engulfing the vessel and the cement bags onboard began to slide towards them so he immediately jumped out of the vessel onto a piece of plank and fell into the water, fighting for his life while his colleagues from WAEC and other passengers remained on board.

He adds that next thing the propeller of the vessel came towards him with its face lifted into the air.

From 2 O’clock to 12 midnight before the rescue team from the Liberia National Coast Guard was spotted, headed in their direction after waiting for about 10 long hours.

By 12:00 we saw the light of the Sea Shepherd”, he concludes. 

A total of 12 persons have been rescued from the vessel, according to Liberia Maritime Authority.  Meanwhile, investigation into the incident is ongoing. by Jonathan Browne

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