Mumbai: Three drown in Powai lake at pre-Christmas boat party

Updated: Dec 27, 2016, 12:20 IST | Silky Sharma and Rupsa Chakraborty |

Friday night revelry turns tragic at Powai lake. Three drown as boat ferrying group of seven overturns after hitting iron rods. By Saturday night, all three bodies were recovered

Ahouseboat party turned into a tragedy. Three people died when their feery boat turned over. However, five people survived at Powai
A houseboat party turned into a tragedy. Three people died when their feery boat turned over. However, five people survived at Powai

Three persons among a group of seven died on Friday night when the boat they were on, on the Powai Lake, overturned after hitting a rod and a fishnet placed in the lake. The three who died have been identified as Dinesh Bhoir (34), Atif Latif Khan (22) and Rashool Khan (43). Family members of the deceased said that the men, most of whom are in the construction business, met each other around six months ago. This was the first time they were partying together.

The party was thrown by Rashool, a Ghatkopar based businessman, who wanted to host his friends on a houseboat parked on Powai Lake. The party, say Powai police. By Saturday night all three bodies were recovered. The police say, the party began at 7 pm and, aside from Dinesh and Atif (Rashool's nephew), two others — Deepak Patil (24) and Naresh Patil (46) — reached the jetty on time. From here, they were ferried on a boat, to the houseboat.

While the bodies of Asif Khan (22) and his uncle Rashool Khan (43) were recovered by 5 pm on Saturday, search was still on for Dinesh Bhoir's body. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
While the bodies of Asif Khan (22) and his uncle Rashool Khan (43) were recovered by 5 pm on Saturday, search was still on for Dinesh Bhoir's body. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

At around 10.30 pm, two other friends, Kunal Patil (35) and Paresh Pancholi (34), arrived at the jetty and the boatman Abbu Mandal (21), headed off to ferry them back to the houseboat. However, the rest of the group also got on to the boat. When the group had picked up the two, and was returning to the houseboat, the boat (which is driven by oars) hit a divider — that is constructed in the lake to prevent idols immersed during Ganesh Puja) from slipping deeper into the lake — and overturned. All the occupants of the boat were thrown into the lake. While the rest managed to take support of the floating boat, or swim to the shore, Dinesh and Asif couldn't and drowned.

Also read - Mumbai: Baby drowns after mother carrying her falls into sea

Rashool, say the survivors, was a good swimmer and had managed to swim ashore but heard Dinesh and Asif shouting for help. Speaking with mid-day, Rashool's brother Faiz Khan said, "He was a good swimmer. He swam to the bank but went back to rescue his friends. We had the habit of helping people in need and may be that's why he counted his friends' lives over his." Rashool is survived by two children and his wife.

Kunal Patil with his wife
Kunal Patil with his wife

Abbu who is being kept under observation at the Powai Polyclinic and Hospital, stated that before the incident, he had made two trips from the houseboat to the jetty and back. On the third trip, all five friends decided to accompany him. He admits that the boat was further imbalanced by the presence of eight persons on it. Ideally, there should be no more than six passengers on the boat.

"When the boat turned over, Naresh and Deepak swam across while Panchal, Kunal and I took support of the boat. As it was also drowning, we started shouting help. Then, a nearby boatman rescued us," he added. While Abbu claims that the friends had consumed alcohol, the Naresh said that this was not true and that all friends were in their senses.

The deceased Atif Khan and Dinesh Bhoir
The deceased Atif Khan and Dinesh Bhoir

Atif's aunt Noorja said he was excited about the party and had even uploaded a picture on the social media site Snapchat. "He always wanted to go on a houseboat party. We never knew it would take his life," she said. Kunal who bought a house few month back and has a two-month-old daughter said that he was lucky that he survived though he doesn't know how to swim. "Dinesh and Rashool, who knew how to swim didn't make it but I survived. I am really feeling sad for them," he said.

Every year, thousands of Ganesh idols are immersed in the lake so the base of the river is filled with the remains of the idols. This, say the police, prevented the rescuers from conducting a thorough search for the bodies. While Atif's body was recovered at 3.50 pm on Saturday, Rashool's was recovered at 5 pm. "We have sent swimmers and continuously floating nets to catch the bodies but the bodies have got stuck between the idols. Also, due to the remains of the idols, the swimmers are unable to search deeper. It's also possible that when the three fell in the waters, they got stuck between the idols and were unable to free themselves," said an officer who didn't wish to be identified.

No life jackets
Local corporator Avinash Sawant, of the MNS, said he complained several times about illegal housing boats operating in the lake, but BMC failed to take any action. "I have been following up on this since 2013, but no action has been taken. In fact, the ferryboats don't even have life saving jackets. This accident could have been prevented," he said.

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