The latest numbers from the Philippines Coast Guard indicate that 50 people have died, and 70 remain missing, after the ferry MV Thomas Aquinas collided with a cargo ship late on Friday, August 16. However, amidst the chaos and tragedy, navy marshal Richard Pestillos, who was a passenger on the ferry, has emerged as a hero as he saved the lives of at least a dozen people.
The Thomas Aquinas was within sight of the pier, where it was set to make a stop in the central Philippines, about 350 miles south of Manila. Suddenly, the ferry collided with a passing cargo ship, setting off a panic aboard the vessel. The ferry sustained a huge cut to the side, and began to sink rapidly.
With little time to prepare and distribute life-saving jackets and boats, the crew scrambled to put small children, women and the elderly into lifeboats. Pestillos then jumped into action, distributing dozens of life jackets, before tying three life jackets to his service rifle to make a raft. Once in the water, Pestillos gave his makeshift raft to a woman who was drowning. Pestillos lost sight of her when he went to shuttle some toddlers to a lifeboat. This was after the toddlers were left stranded on the sinking ship.
Thanks in part to the heroics of Pestillos, and other passengers who helped, 750 passengers were rescued from the Thomas Aquinas. Unfortunately, more than 50 have already been confirmed dead, and 70 more remain missing as the Philippines Navy and Coast Guard continue diving and rescue operations, several days after the accident.
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