The captain of a ferry that sank on New Year's Day with the loss of 79 lives says the crew of the naval patrol boat that was towing his boat was drunk.
The accident off the Caribbean coast was Guatemala's worst maritime disaster.Late Tuesday, the captain of the ferry, who is charged with negligent homocide in the case, blamed the navy crew for the accident during an interview in a National Police jail in this city.
The captain, Juan Pablo Esquivel, said those on the navy ship, which he said included non-navy personnel, were "celebrating on deck" during the towing operation. He said he smelled alcohol on the breath of a machinist who boarded his packed ferry from the navy vessel to check the motor.
The ferry skipper said that after eight minutes of tow-ing, the navy vessel "made a brusque acceleration" that caused the ferry to flip over.
Capt. Rigoberto Kiste, of the Puerto Barrios naval base, said by telephone that he could not officially respond to the charges because the navy's investigation was continuing.
But earlier Tuesday, another officer at the local naval base denied that the patrol vessel, No. 654, was at fault and said the ferry captain must shoulder prime responsibility.
A tugboat captain and other witnesses told The Associated Press that the ferry was towed with too short a cable and that the patrol boat did not slow down even after the ferry started listing.