UAE teachers could've lived if first-aiders came in time: Families
Left to right: Andrew Valenzuela, Jaquelyn Alferez, Eden Perales
Dubai - Families are calling for justice and swift action from Philippine authorities after the tragedy.
The families and friends of the three Al Ain-based Filipino teachers - who died when three ferries capsized in rough seas off central Philippines over the weekend - are calling for justice and swift action from Philippine authorities after the tragedy.
Speaking to Khaleej Times over the phone on Monday, Louie Valenzuela - younger brother of Andrew Valenzuela, 39, who was among the 31 people who died in the accident - said his brother could have survived if only first-aid responders arrived immediately.
Mark Angelo Subaldo, a survivor and co-teacher of Andrew at Al Ittihad National Private School-Al Ain, said they were able to pull Andrew out of the water and haul him on the overturned boat to do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
"He (Andrew) was able to cough out the water and was breathing deeply after a passenger gave him a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but the rescuers came late and they lacked proper equipment. If only they had responded immediately, Andrew would have been able to survive," Subaldo said.
Subaldo added that they believed there was negligence on the part of the Philippine Coast Guard.
All three ferries plied the short 20-minute hop between the port city of Iloilo and the island of Guimaras. Subaldo said two accidents happened almost at the same time before noon on Saturday.
Due to harsh weather conditions, authorities declared a shutdown of ferry services, but they eventually lifted the no-go order a few hours later.
The teachers took the boat that left Guimaras at 3.04pm and, 15 minutes later out into the sea, the boat capsized after being hit by a strong wind, followed by high waves.
"The wooden-hulled boat has a 40-plus capacity, and there were 36 passengers, including the crew. When it was hit by the strong wind, I told my co-passengers to stand up and move to stablise the boat, but huge waves hit us and we found ourselves trapped inside the overturned boat," Subaldo recalled.
"It all happened so fast. We were panicking and we couldn't get out. That's when I decided to remove my life vest so I could dive underneath the boat and leave," he added.
"Many people remained trapped in the capsized boat. Then I saw Andrew and someone helped me grab him and somebody gave him a CPR to force the water out of his lungs. Rescuers came after 20-30 minutes later and Andrew was brought to the hospital but he was declared (dead on arrival)," Subaldo added.
The two other fatalities were Eden Perales, 37, who also worked at Al Ittihad Private School, and Jaquelyn Alferez, 38, a former teacher at the same school.
Jeanette Montemayor, another UAE-based teacher who was part of the group, was put in an intensive care unit.
The families and friends of the victims were in Iloilo on Monday night. They said they could not bring home the bodies because they were still waiting for the incident report from the coast guard.
"We heard from the local coordinators that they wanted us to wait until Wednesday because President Rodrigo Duterte is coming to Guimaras. But we want to bring our dead back home now," Louie, a former Dubai resident, underlined.
Meanwhile, Subaldo said school authorities have assured them that they will get financial assistance.
Philippine Embassy-Abu Dhabi Second Secretary/Consul Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil also said they will extend assistance to the families of the victims in claiming benefits from authorities.