Mumbai: Did Shiv Sangram workers' hurry cause boat to capsize?

Oct 26, 2018, 18:00 IST | Rahul Mahajani

The political party's workers overloaded the boat, refused to wear life jackets and took a dangerous shortcut to the memorial site

Mumbai: Did Shiv Sangram workers' hurry cause boat to capsize?
Rescuers bring one of the mishap victims onshore near the Gateway of India. Pic/Suresh Karkera

Chhatrapati Shivaji built a powerful Navy that consolidated the Maratha empire. But, it seems his followers and those behind the idea of a marine memorial for him have much to learn about the sea. The tragedy that left a person dead at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial site, has revived a demand to shift the ambitious Rs 2,800-crore project on land in the city.

Shiv Sangram members' hurry to get to the Shivaji memorial site may have led to their boat capsizing on Wednesday, suggested eyewitnesses and police officials who at the Gateway of India at the time.

Disregard for safety
As per the schedule, after the chief secretary's boat left, a police boat was to follow it, but the political party's workers showed utmost disregard for others, and forced their way onto the second vessel. It was this boat that met with a mishap on its way to the proposed memorial site for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Officials said had the police boat been second, and the policial workers followed in a third boat, the tragedy could have been averted.

Police officials speaking off the record said that although the boat had a capacity of 20 passengers, over 35 workers had gone aboard with others. People from Mumbai Sagari had removed at least 8-12 workers from the boat, thereby averting a higher death toll. A total of 21 were saved after the boat hit the rocks. One Shiv Sangram worker, Siddhesh Pawar, was found dead in the boat. Officials said they had personally requested many passengers, mostly Shiv Sangram workers, to wear life jackets, but only a few of them complied.

Boat capsize story

Rocky shortcut
Cops probing the case said the second boat's helmsman took a rocky route that is notorious among local fishermen for being accident-prone. The boat hit one of the rocks, which led to a leak in the vessel. As per officials, the four previous boats, carrying the chief secretary and journalists, along with two belonging to Mumbai police, had taken a longer but safer route.

Senior officers of Mumbai police immediately sent in three boats - Mumbai 4, Mumbai 10 and Chaitrali - for rescue, and the Navy and Coast Guard also responded with their boats and helicopter. Local fishermen also helped the agencies with their boats and expertise. The quick response and three-hour operation helped save 21 lives, said senior officers.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Port Zone) Rashmi Karandikar said, "We have filed an accidental death report (ADR) at the Colaba police station and are probing further."

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