On February 27, 2004, one of the scariest tragedies happened in the Philippines after a bomb detonated and sank SuperFerry 14, a passenger ferry bound from Manila to the Cagayan de Oro City.
The 10,192-ton ferry was sailing with 899 recorded passengers and crew aboard. According to reports, 116 people perished from this heartless terror attack. Those who perished consisted of six children aged less than five years old, and nine children between six and 16 years of age were among the dead or missing, including six students on a championship team sent by schools in northern Mindanao scheduled to compete in a journalism contest.
An hour after MV SuperFerry 14 sailed, somewhere between El Fraile or Corregidor Island, an explosion happened, starting a fire that sank the ship and caused the confirmed deaths of 63 people while another 53 were recorded as missing and presumed dead.
On the other hand, Survivors jumped into the sea or boarded rescue boats. Two days later, authorities had accounted for 565 of the 744 recorded passengers and all but two of the 155 crew members.
Investigators have suspected that some of the missing people were stuck inside the burning ferry and submerged in Manila Bay, while others were picked up by fishing vessels.
Despite being towed to shallower waters near Mariveles port in the province of Bataan, only four bodies were rescued by Coast Guard divers from the half-submerged ferry in the first week. Days later, divers rescued at least another 12 bodies, some of which had blast injuries.
Eventually, 63 bodies were found, with another 53 still missing and presumed dead.
Various terrorist groups claimed credit for bombing the SuperFerry 14. However, initial thoughts that an accident was caused by a gas explosion.
A month later, a safety supervisor with the ship's owner, WG&A, claimed that about 150 survivors told him an explosion occurred in the tourist section around the general area.
The MV Superferry 14 captain, Ceferino Manzo, also claimed that the entire tourist section was covered in thick black smoke scented like gunpowder.
Five months after the tragic incident, authorities found evidence of a bomb blast. Afterward, Redendo Cain Dellosa, a Rajah Sulaiman Movement member, confessed to planting a bomb triggered by a timing device onboard MV Superferry 14 for the Abu Sayyaf group. He held a ticket on the ferry for bunk 51B, where the bomb was placed, and disembarked before the ship's departure.
Based on what the investigators found out, a television set carrying a 3.6-kilogram Trinitrotoluene (TNT) bomb had been planted on board in the lower, more crowded decks.
By October 2004, six suspects had been arrested in connection with the bombing. As the authorities continue to shed light on what really happened, it was believed that the Abu Sayyaf, one of the most violent of the Islamic separatist groups in the Philippines, bombed MV Superferry 14 because the company that owned it, WG&A, did not comply with a letter demanding USD 1 million in protection money.
Four years later, a person-of-interest, Ruben Omar Pestano Lavilla, Jr., a listed terrorist of the U.S. State Department and founder of Philippine terror group Rajah Sulaiman Movement was arrested in Bahrain and deported back to the Philippines. He was said to have orchestrated the MV Superferry 14 attack and a bus bombing on Valentine's Day in 2005.
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