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Simshar sole survivor insists he was not responsible for tragedy

The captain and sole survivor of the Simshar tragedy yesterday insisted he was not responsible for the death of a Somali crewman, whose mother is seeking compensation through the courts.

Simon Bugeja filed a judicial letter in reaction to a claim for compensation filed by the mother of Abdulrahman Gedi, who died, aged 21, a few days after the Simshar, owned by Mr Bugeja, mysteriously blew up on the high seas on July 11, 2008, while sailing back home after a five-day fishing trip.

All those on board survived the explosion and hung on to makeshift rafts made from debris from the wreck. Mr Gedi, who suffered extensive burns in the blast, was the first to die, followed by 33-year-old Noel Carabott, Mr Bugeja's father, 61-year-old Karmenu, and Simon Bugeja's son, 11-year-old Theo, whose body was never found.

Fadumo Abdulle Qabobe accused Mr Bugeja of causing her son's death through negligence and lack of safety training, drawing on the findings of an official inquiry report published last year.

But Mr Bugeja and his wife, Sharon, who was also held legally accountable for the damages in Ms Qabobe's judicial letter, insisted they were not responsible and were victims themselves, having lost "their property, their family and their future".

They categorically denied the allegations levelled at them by Ms Qabobe and asked her to reconsider her position and avoid useless expenses. They did not go into the actual claims raised by the Somali mother.

Leveraging on the Malta Maritime Authority inquiry findings, the Somali fisherman's family concluded that the tragedy was the result of Mr Bugeja's failure to use safety equipment on board the Simshar.

The report had flagged the fact that Mr Bugeja failed to use safety equipment available on the boat. Among other things, Mr Bugeja had admitted with the inquiring board that he did not activate an emergency beacon, which would have helped locate the survivors earlier, both because he did not know how to activate the device and also because there was no time.

Ms Qabobe said she would initiate legal proceedings against Mr Bugeja if he did not pay damages within a week. The claim for damages has so far not been quantified.

Lawyer Robert Abela signed the letter on behalf of Simon and Sharon Bugeja.

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