A possible cause being investigated for the sinking of M/Y Dream Keeper, a yacht that transports divers to the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) and World Heritage Site in the town of Cagayancillo, is related to a squall.
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) District Palawan commander Cpt. Dennis Rem Labay told Palawan News that the squall phenomena is a sudden, sharp increase in wind speed that lasts for a brief period, often accompanied by a change in direction of the wind.
“Not yet confirmed. Medyo mahirap ang communication doon sa area (Communication signal in the area is hard). But according to PCG personnel in Tubbataha, they were hit by a squall late last night,” Labay explained. “The same weather disturbance na na-experience natin kaninang around 6 a.m. (we experienced around 6 a.m.), sudden surge of rain, violent winds.”
“This cannot be detected. We have no warning from PAGASA about this. Also, this info is from our people on the ground,” he added.
Miko Zulueta, who claimed to be an instructor at Global Underwater Explorers on his Facebook account, posted at 6:10 a.m. on April 30 that a squall struck them at approximately 3:30 a.m. He mentioned that the vessel carried a total of around 32 passengers, including 11 Chinese divers and four dive masters. Out of the total count, two males and two females are still missing.
He said Atlantis, Solitude, Stella Maris, and Palau Sport are joining the search. Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) chief Angelique Songco is in the area and is the overall command officer.
“If you want to help… if you are powerful… we need air assets. Fixed or rotary wing that is good for low level due to heavy cloud cover now. Any air is better than no air. We are still at golden hour for the 4 if they are still alive. We need air. There are 4 US Blackhawks at Puerto Princesa, if someone can ask them to help… they love this kind of thing. Stop calling me… stop sending me friend requests. We do not have your friend…. yet. But everyone is trying. Ocean is calm right now…. calm,” Zulueta posted on his FB at 9:54 a.m. also Sunday.
Labay said the search and rescue (SAR) operation is currently focused on finding the four missing individuals following the sinking of the dive boat, which was reported to the Naval Forces West (NAVFORWEST) first around the said time and their team at 6:49 a.m.
By 7:15 a.m., a total of 28 individuals had been rescued. The M/Y Discovery Palawan, which was the closest yacht in the vicinity, is also helping in the SAR.
The yacht had departed from San Remegio, Cebu City, on April 27, and reached Tubbataha Reef on April 29 for a diving sojourn.
Upon receiving the notification from NAVFORWEST, the PCG said they promptly dispatched BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV 9702) to conduct the search and rescue operation. The Coast Guard Sub-Station Tubbataha and other dive boats in the vicinity also participated in the SAR efforts.