By BOSE ADELAJA & MONSURU OLOWOOPEJO
LAGOS—One of the 12 survivors of the boat mishap that claimed no fewer than six lives, Wednesday evening, Mrs. Bunmi Abimbola, a 28-years-old trader, blamed the accident on overloading and speeding by the captain.
She said: “The boat left the Ebutte-Ero Jetty at 5:34pm. I was eating at the time and I complained about the number of the passengers on-board, but he said that it could not adversely affect the boat.
“Immediately he left the jetty, he sped off and the wave was very high. A few minutes after, the boat rammed into a rock in the water.”
Abimbola, who said she lost N350,000 cash and other valuables, said: “After the accident, the boat was stuck in the water for about 30 minutes as the operator made several calls to both jetties for rescue. None came.
“The boat was running at top speed coupled with the wave, which threw us into panic and we started shouting but the boat operator calmed us down and assured us of our safety.
“On getting to Iyana-Oworo, the wave was so high that the boat could not stand it until it hit an object and got stuck.
“Most of us started shouting for help. The operator ignored us, picked his cell phone and made several calls to the company.
Fisherman to the rescue
“However, there was no response from the company until a fisherman came to our rescue.
“Of the 12 persons rescued, three were rescued by the fisherman, while seven others were rescued by the company and the Federal and state emergency teams.
“Unfortunately, the fisherman could only carry three of us, while others continued shouting for help. By this time, the boat had capsized and the passengers had become tired.
“At around 7pm, when everybody had lost hope, an empty boat came. But this was too late as seven of them had died.
“My husband has warned me to relocate my goods from Lagos to Ikorodu, but I asked him to give me some time.
“Yesterday’s (Wednesday) incident was avoidable. The boat in question was substandard and the company didn’t care for the passengers’ lives.”
Bunmi said all the passengers wore life jackets except a baby, but that there were 25 passengers on board instead of 20.
Another survivor, Abegunde Tajudeen, who said the seven victims could have survived the incident if the company had been prompt with its rescue operation.
He said: “In spite of the several calls made to the company, they did not arrive on time. To compound the problem, the boat manager was seen dinning and winning few minutes after the incident.”
Firm disagree with survivors
The boat capsized around 6pm on Wednesday. At 6am, yesterday, sympathisers had gathered at the scene. There were conflicting accounts of what led to the tragedy.
While some survivors attributed it to overloading, the management of the company, Bell Marine Services, represented by Mr. Ben Kalejaye, insisted the boat only carried 20 passengers that were expected of it.
Among those that lost their lives was a couple, identified as Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Akers, who were expected to have their wedding anniversary next week Wednesday; a pregnant woman and a baby whose body had been deposited in the morgue.
At press time Information Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mr. Ibrahim Farinose, said the body of Mr. Isaac Akers was yet to be recovered.
Vanguard gathered that the late Akers was an employee of a shipping company (name withheld) and his wife, a nurse. Also, a grey color Toyota car, with Lagos number plate APP 259 CN, belonging to the couple, was among several others cars parked at the Maiden Jetty.
While survivors were thanking God, traders at the jetty wore sad looks as operations were suspended to honour the dead.
Also, the Ebutte-Ero Market, where four of the deceased did business, was shut by the market committee. Two of the traders were identified as Wale and Tawakalitu.
The secretary of the market association, Mr. Monsuru Odumosu, confirmed that four traders from the market were involved in the mishap.
The General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu and Farinloye, said that the search and rescue will continue by 4pm yesterday.
According to Oke-Osanyintolu, “the recovery operation is still ongoing. So far we have recovered seven bodies.
“Six of them are adult female and one male. And these bodies were initially deposited at the Ikorodu General Hospital mortuary. They have been transferred to the Lagos Island General Hospital, Lagos Island Local Government Area.
“Only one person was recovered at about 6am, yesterday morning. We are still on the search and rescue to ensure that nobody is left. The capacity of the boat is between 20 and 25.”