The National Court has stopped the intentions of the Mapfre company to appear as injured party in the judicial investigation into the sinking of the Galician ship Villa de Pitanxo, which left 21 dead when it sank on February 15, 2022 450 kilometers off the coast of Newfoundland (Canada). The court, which keeps the fishing boat skipper charged with 21 crimes of manslaughter for gross negligence and against the rights of workers, has rejected the claims of the company, which had insured the boat against possible “damages” and that it intended to access the investigations to obtain documentation on the incident, as stated in a resolution of the Criminal Chamber of September 9. Contacted by EL PAÍS, Mapfre did not want to comment on it.
Investigating judge Ismael Moreno, who is investigating the death of the 21 sailors, already rejected Mapfre’s appearance in May of this year. But the multinational then appealed the magistrate’s decision. The company claimed that, as the insurer of the ship’s damage, it had the right to be recognized as damaged and to know how the shipwreck occurred, about which the three survivors – the skipper, his nephew and a third crew member – offer contradictory versions. . The company further argued that it had not been able to access the Navigation Log, lost in the sinking; nor to the Protest of the Sea before the Consul of Spain in San Juan de Terranova, a document drawn up by the captain of the ship in the event of this type of incident.
However, the National Court rejects this thesis. First, Judge Moreno stressed that the insurer intended to justify her condition as injured by the fact that she had a catch and damage insurance contract with the Villa de Pitanxo; an extreme that, according to the instructor, has nothing to do with the allegedly criminal acts that are investigated in these investigations: the death of 21 people due to imprudence. On this, in addition, the Criminal Chamber adds that the company wants to “intervene in this procedure to have access to the Protest of the Sea and the evidence that is carried out regarding the causes of the sinking.”
“These circumstances do not justify its condition as aggrieved,” emphasize the magistrates of the Criminal Chamber, who stress that Mapfre can obtain the Protest of the Sea by other means. And, even, the judges indicate that, in the event of a civil claim from the owner of the ship to the insurer, the company can request the suspension of that process until this criminal investigation is resolved in the National Court.
The judge accused the boss of the Villa de Pitanxo, Juan Padín, for 21 crimes of homicide for serious negligence and against the rights of workers. The captain and his nephew, Eduardo Rial (the second survivor), officially stated that, after suffering a “sudden” stop in the main engine in the middle of reeling in the rig, the fishing vessel sank “very quickly” due to the blows of sea that heeled it. As the shipowner assured through a note, where it included Padín’s version, the ship’s machinery stopped working and it was left “without propulsion or steering”, exposed to waves of up to 10 meters and winds of 56 kilometers per hour. In addition, the skipper said that there were survival suits on board for all crew members and that he ordered them to put them on when the ship began to sink.
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But the third survivor, the sailor Samuel Kwesi, offers a different version. He told the Civil Guard that it was the winches that collect the tackle that stopped working and then the engine stopped; that Padín did not heed the warnings that the sailors had given him to drop the net, which could have allowed the heel to be corrected; and that the captain did not give the order to abandon ship or to put on survival suits.
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