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Murder Complaint Filed After Philippines Ferry Disaster Kills 59

The incident happened a kilometer off the coast of Ormoc City. Police filed a murder complaint Friday against the ferry's owner and crew.

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Police in the Philippines have filed murder complaints against the owner and crew of a ferry that capsized Thursday, killing 59 people.

The ferry capsized off the coast of Ormoc City, on the island of Leyte, in the Philippines. Police announced Friday that they had filed murder complaints against the ferry's owner, captain, and 17 crew members, the Associated Press reported.

About 145 people survived the ordeal, though regional coast guard commander Capt. Pedro Tinampay told the AP that investigators were still determining how many passengers were on the ferry.

Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo told AP that strong waves caused the boat to capsize. The captain and some members of the crew were rescued, and were taken into custody pending an investigation.

Some passengers also said the boat suddenly veered to one side, the AP reported. Tinampay said that may have caused its cargo — which included 80 sacks of cement — to shift to one side.

However, Lawrence Drake, a retired American firefighter, told the AP the captain did not abruptly turn the ferry to one side. "That is 100 percent incorrect. I was 10 feet from the captain," he said.

UPDATE: 34 dead after boat capsized off Ormoc City (Photos via John Kevin Pilapil/Serbisyo Publiko sa Radyo)

At least 7 rescue boats arrived at the overturned ferry — the M/B Nirvana — to pick up survivors who clung onto the vessel's hull, Ormoc disaster risk reduction and management department spokesman Ciriaco Tolibao told AFP.

Eyewitnesses speaking to the AP by telephone described how the boat suddenly and quickly overturned as it pulled out of port, trapping them underneath.

"No one was able to jump out because it overturned very swiftly. There was no time to jump," said Mary Ann Drake, Lawrence Drake's wife, who was able to swim from underneath the boat with her mother and husband.

Lawrence also said he could hear the screams of passengers, and described how he rushed to the side of the boat in an attempt to balance it.

"I jumped out of my seat and ran to the front as far as I could, and tried to lean over. I am a big guy, and tried to push the boat back over but it was way too late."

This video, uploaded to Facebook by an eyewitness, shows the rescue operation:

Facebook: video.php

Francis Whittaker is a homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

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Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

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