BETUL/MOBOR: It was business as usual for Russian tourists, who had Tuesday set out on an adventurous boat ride, which included deep-sea fishing and a trip to a ‘private’ beach at Canaguinnim where they would spend the day in fun and frolic, until tragedy struck them claiming the lives of three Russian women on the boat. The boat was carrying 14 passengers, according to police.
Inspite of an alert being sounded in the state in view of the approaching Cyclone Nilofar and directions issued by the authorities not to venture into the sea, boat operators at Mobor ignored the warning leading to the drowning of the three female tourists.
Sources close to the boat operators, requesting anonymity, said that there were nearly 8-10 boats carrying Russian tourists, who boarded at Mobor before heading towards Canaguinnim.
Giving an account of the tragedy, an eyewitness said that the ill-fated boat was approaching the Canaguinnim beach when huge waves hit it, barely a few metres from the shore. The impact of the waves was such that the boat drifted to the side before capsizing. The eyewitness said that most of the tourists were thrown out of the boat while the deceased got trapped under it, and even though the boat was barely a few metres from the shore, it could not be lifted in order to rescue the tourists.
The eyewitnesses said that while many tried to lift the boat to free the stranded tourists, the waves even washed away the propeller of the boat. After a long time, the boat got lifted as the waves hit hard against it, but it was too late by then, as the three female tourists had drowned due to suffocation. Their bodies were later retrieved.
Cuncolim police have arrested boat operator Gajbandu Naik and owner Baretto for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. According to sub-inspector of Cuncolim police station Tukaram chawan, who rushed to the spot along with staff, the incident took place at around 11.10 am. He said that while three tourists got drowned, the survivors were administered first aid. Pointing out to the sand being washed away by the waves, eyewitnesses said that the sea was rough all day with violent waves battering the shore. “The boat operators should not have ventured out as it was too risky as the choppy sea resembled monsoon pattern of waves, which would hit the shore hard.”
Sources close to boat operators said that it is routine for Russians to go on an adventure trip to Canaguinnim and indulge in activities like deep-sea fishing at the start and later spend the day under the sun at the beach.
The lifeguards present at the site of the incident said that the moment they saw the boat overturning, they alerted their office, which, in turn, called the police to make the necessary arrangements to shift the victims. Life guard jeeps were also pressed into service to shift the injured.
Officials from the Betul coastal police said that they received information about the incident from Panaji at around 11.20 am and dispatched personnel in search of the ill-fated boat. They said that once the alert was sounded in the state, the police had made it a point to convey the message to the boat operators not to venture into the sea. However, the boat operators ignored the warning. The ill-fated boat was later set afloat once again in the evening and taken back to Mobor even as police investigations are in progress.
Boat operator’s negligence led to tragedy: Russian Consulate lawyer
PANAJI: Vikram Varma, lawyer for Russian Consulate, has cried foul over the tragic incident and raised question as to how the boat operator neglected the warning issued by the authorities regarding weather conditions.
“The entire country is aware of the volatile weather conditions in the Arabian Sea. All fishermen have anchored their boats. I fail to understand why this boat ignored all reports and ventured into the sea. Prima facie this tragic accident seems to be a result of negligence by the boat operator,” he said.