Boat tragedy probe blames all and sundry

Vijayawada: The magisterial probe into the boat accident on the river Godavari that claimed at least 46 lives held “collective human error” responsible, and termed the incident “preventable.”

Maintaining that the driver ought not to have taken the route avoided by drivers of other boats, the probe also pointed out lapses on the part of ports and irrigation departments but interestingly exonerated the police. Passengers too were at fault for not wearing life jackets, the report said.

The Sri Vasista Punnami Royal boat carrying 69 passengers and a crew of eight capsized on Sept-ember 15 near Katchaluru village. As many as 26 survived and of the re-maining, 46 bodies were identified, three sent for a DNA test and two were yet to be traced.

East Godavari joint collector G. Lakshmi Shah conducted the inquiry. According to sources, the joint collector found that the port department erred while issuing the registration certificate. It did not insist for the free board limits prescribed in the Inland Vessel Rules. The irrigation department failed to take into consideration the changes in water levels due to construction of the coffer dam in Polavaram. The department also failed to act on the recommendations of a high-powered committee to establish a mechanism to provide a safe route by conducting bathymetry survey from time to time.

The report also referred to the passengers removing life jackets once they crossed the police outpost. It made a mere mention of the police stopping the vessel and letting it go after some time.

Sources said the inquiry authority was of the view that the roles and responsibilities of each government department was clear in the rulebook but the implementing agencies perhaps failed to understand or was confused about their roles.

The irrigation department initially maintained that the entire subject was transferred to the port department but the perusal of records established that the port department’s role ends with registration while the operations are to be controlled by the irrigation.

The investigation report also blamed the greed of the boat owners and the boat owners’ association representatives who pressurized the police administration to allow the boat to continue with its cruise. East Godavari district collector D. Muralidhar Reddy told Deccan Chronicle that the report was submitted to the government.

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