Captain ‘ignored’ pleas to save men

A LIMERICK man drowned after jumping from a party boat in Ibiza because the captain ignored passengers’ pleas to stop and help, a Spanish court has heard.

Friends begged Jose Ribas, 45, for assistance after 21-year-old Brazil Bourke, a nephew of former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, and his friend leaped from the top deck during a drunken cruise off Ibiza, the court heard.

The skipper failed to call the coast guard and sailed more than a mile back to port leaving Mr Bourke to his fate, prosecutors said. The court heard how horrified friends, who tried desperately to throw him lifesavers from the deck, found they were tied to the boat.

Yesterday the parents of the victim came face to face with the Spanish captain as he stood trial for manslaughter. Farmer John Bourke and his wife Mary travelled to Spain from their home in Hospital, Co Limerick, and were sitting just feet from the defendant during the trial at Criminal Court number two in Ibiza.

State prosecutor Ruth Negreti told the panel of two judges Mr Bourke’s death was “preventable” had the captain acted differently.

She said he was fully aware two men were overboard more than a mile from the port, “but at no time was he concerned by the situation, nor did he stop to help”. Private prosecutor Luis Berastani Diez, representing the victim’s family, said the captain had “abandoned” Mr Bourke. The prosecutors called for Mr Ribas to be jailed for four years for manslaughter and be fined €18,000 for failing to help.

The captain claims he was only aware one person was overboard and insists he saw that person swim safely to the shore.

Mr Bourke, a student of Limerick Institute of Technology, was on holiday with friends when they took the four-hour sunset cruise from San Antonio on July 31, 2006. He had taken ecstasy and cocaine and had drunk heavily on the night he died, the court heard.

The head of Ibiza’s coastguard said the service was not contacted until 4.40am, more than six hours after the two men jumped in.

Miguel Felix Chicon Rodriguez said it was “obligatory and necessary” to call the coastguard as soon as the captain realised he could not save a man overboard.

The captain insisted the incident happened just 30 metres from the port of San Antonio, not a mile away.

He claimed he turned the boat round twice to check the passenger was safe and that nobody else was overboard. He said he threw out a lifesaver after being told there was a man overboard.

Mr Ribas said: “I was only ever told one man was overboard, and I saw that person swimming safely to some rocks on the shore. I went to bed later perfectly at peace that everyone was safe. I think I did everything correctly.”

The captain’s boss Vicente Bonet Costa, who was not on board, denied the lifesavers were tied down. Mr Ribas’s defence lawyer Vicente Manez called for him to be cleared of both charges, saying: “His actions were totally correct.”

The defence insists the drama happened just outside San Antonio port and dispute Patrick Bourke’s claim he swam for 90 minutes before being rescued. The two judges, led by Martina Rodriguez Caritg, are expected to return their verdicts in two weeks.

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