Slapped for Dancing "Like a Girlie"

Coroner's office

Published Jun 5, 2015 8:05 AM by Wendy Laursen

An Australian inquest into the deaths of two seafarers on Sage Sagittarius, the “death ship,” has heard that a third man was slapped by the vessel’s master for dancing “like a girlie.”

The inquest is examining the death of Cesar Llanto, 42, one of three men from the Sage Sagittarius to die in a six weeks between August and October 2012. Llanto disappeared overboard as the vessel approached Australian waters northeast of Cairns.

The scope of the inquest also includes the death of chief engineer Hector Collado, 57, who died as a result of an 11-meter (36 foot) fall on board the bulk carrier. The third death, that of Japanese superintendent Kosaku Monji, who was crushed to death on a conveyor belt, is beyond the scope of the enquiry as it occurred when the ship was docked in Japan.

The inquest heard that Captain Venancio Salas Jr was like a big brother to galley worker Jessie Martinez. However it has been alleged that Salas regularly bullied Martinez. On one occasion, he allegedly punched him so hard he struggled for breath for days afterwards.

Salas also admitted to slapping Martinez on the bottom at one of the ship’s weekly parties where alcohol was consumed. 9News reports Salas as saying: "I saw him dancing inappropriately ... like a girly ... like a woman in a burlesque," he said. "It is very degrading to him already, and I told him to stop, and if you don't stop I will slap you with a slipper."

Guns On Board

The captain also admitted to selling guns to crew members and taking a commission. Most of the crew members on board were armed. ABC News reports that, when pressed, Salas admitted to collecting the gun brochures and permits from the crew before the Sage Sagittarius docked in Newcastle to prevent the Australian Federal Police from finding them.

Llanto’s Disappearance

The inquest heard that Llanto, chief cook on board Sage Sagittarius, may have been involved in a plan to report Salas to the International Transport Worker's Federation on arrival in Australia.

The same day that he disappeared overboard, Salas ordered Martinez to delete a statement of complaint from Llanto’s computer as it would have resulted in the ship being detained at Newcastle port. Salas denied he was angry with Llanto and denied he had anything to do with his disappearance but said he believed the man may have been murdered.

Salas is about embark on an eight-month voyage as captain of another vessel.

The inquest continues.