Bali police declare dive boat captain suspect in fatal accident

Kyodo

Police on the Indonesian resort island of Bali have named the captain of a dive boat as a suspect in a fatal scuba diving accident that left at least one Japanese woman dead.

Handoyo Supeno, law enforcement chief at the Bali Police Headquarters, said Thursday the police were also questioning Saori Furukawa, one of the two locally based Japanese dive instructors who were leading five Japanese women on a dive last Friday off the neighboring island of Nusa Lembongan when all seven went missing. He refused to say whether the 37-year-old woman would be declared a suspect.

Furukawa was rescued Monday along with four of her clients, some 75 hours after their group disappeared. The body of the fifth client was found Tuesday, while the other instructor remains missing.

Handoyo said the captain, Agustinus Brata Kusuma, was declared a suspect after testimony from the survivors revealed that when the group surfaced after a 30-minute dive late Friday afternoon, they could not find his boat.

Agustinus, who was immediately detained upon police questioning, faces a five-year jail term if convicted.

Speaking to reporters at the police station, Agustinus, 30, said he does not know why he was detained.

“I hope this case will be settled soon, so I can work again. I have a wife and kids (to feed),” he said.

Earlier last week, Agustinus told police investigators that the group went missing during their third dive Friday.

“When the divers plunged into the water, the weather was still good,” Agustinus said in his testimony. “But about 15 minutes later, it turned cloudy.”

He said he tried to locate the divers by following the air bubbles produced on the surface of the water.

But later, heavy rain fell, obscuring the bubbles, he said.

“I tried to find them, but my efforts produced no results,” he said.

Meanwhile on Thursday, four of the five rescued women were discharged from a hospital. Furukawa had been discharged from another hospital two days earlier.

Appearing before reporters outside Sanglah International Hospital on Bali, 33-year-old Emi Yamamoto read out a short statement on behalf of all four of them, apologizing for causing so much trouble and concern.

She voiced hope that rescuers still searching for 35-year-old Shoko Takahashi, the other instructor who co-led the diving outing, will soon find her alive. The rescue operation was set to end by the end of Thursday.

Yamamoto and the other three women — Kobe University Hospital nurses Atsumi Yoshidome, 29, Aya Morizono, 27, and Nahomi Tomita, 28 — expressed their gratitude in unison and gave a long bow before boarding a bus and departing for the airport, without taking questions from reporters.

They were expected to board a flight to Japan in the evening and arrive home Friday.

Ngurah Jaya Kusuma, medical services and nursing director of the hospital, earlier told a news conference the four survivors still suffer pain from injuries and sunburn, but were deemed fit enough to be discharged.

Furukawa said Wednesday in email responses to the media that the divers were caught in foul weather and swept away by strong currents while on the outing last Friday in waters near Nusa Lembongan Island, southeast of Bali. They were found Monday on the rocky coast of nearby Nusa Penida Island.

The body of Ritsuko Miyata, 59, the eldest in the group, was found Tuesday in waters near Serangan about 20 km from where the group went missing.