A boat with 34 people on board from a private school, overturned in Harni Lake in Vadodara, Gujarat during a picnic on Thursday, killing 12 students and two teachers. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) confirmed the death toll.
“About two dozen students and four teachers were on board, enjoying a boat ride in the afternoon, when the accident happened”, they said.
According to a local journalist, Qureshi, all the children who were victims of the accident belong to New Sunrise School, located in Vadodara district in Gujarat.
The aftermath was captured in pictures and videos, showing people gathering on the outskirts of Vadodara, near Harni Lake, including distressed parents, as they learnt the news. It was also noted that no student had their life jacket on that could have saved lives.
One parent who was visiting the site, shared, “I came here to pick up my son after receiving a call from the school teacher that he was not feeling well. To my shock, I discovered he had been on the boat. Thankfully, he was rescued by some people, when the boat capsized.”
However, another parent, whose daughter was in the boat, was not so lucky. He said, “My daughter was on the boat. She had gone on a picnic. She is dead and I am here to claim her body. Who do I hold accountable for this tragedy? “
The deceased have been identified as Mohammad Ayan Anees Gandhi (13), Roshni Shinde (10), Rutwi Shah (10), Jahabiya Mohammad Yunus Subedar (10), Sakina Sheikh, Muhiba Sheikh, Ayesha Kothari, V Nizama, and five other children. Two teachers — Falguni Patel and Chhaya Surti — who accompanied the group of children have also been declared dead in reports.
Among the departed children were siblings, born after 17 years into their parent’s marriage. The parents are now in unimaginable distress seeking answers.
“Who is accountable for the tragedy?” said a resident and social worker, Sagheer Ahmad, in conversation with The Observer Post.
According to the police, an FIR has been lodged against five persons under IPC section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to culpable homicide), and 337 (rash or negligent act endangering human life).
Sagheer, who has been actively involved with kins of deceased students, since the news of the incident surfaced, also revealed a complex chain of contracts governing boating management, with the original ownership tied to a company and subsequent management contracted out to third or fourth parties. He also verified that a formal complaint had been registered against the management in the lake area.
Reports indicated that the management of the lake region falls originally under the purview of Kotia Projects through a Public-Private Partnership agreement with municipal authorities.
It was not initially clear against whom the FIR was registered since it was not in the public domain.
“Distressed by the loss of innocent lives, Gujarat Education Minister Kuber Dindor said a probe has been ordered. A preliminary probe by authorities also revealed the boat, which was pulled out from the muddy waters, has only 14 seats,” officials said.
Expressing grief, the AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi, also offered condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic accident. Praying for the recovery of the injured, he demanded a thorough investigation into the matter and urged authorities to prosecute those responsible.
Late in the evening, Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel also visited survivors and the families of the deceased at the state-run SSG Hospital. Meanwhile, the official Twitter account of Prime Minister India, quoted PM Modi offering condolences and announcing financial aid: Rs 2 lakh from PMNRF for each deceased’s kin and Rs 50,000 for the injured.
The investigation has been entrusted to the Vadodara District Magistrate, and a detailed report is anticipated within 10 days.
Dr Sheetal Mistry, Chairman of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation’s Standing Committee, told ANI, “The boat was carrying around 35 people, exceeding the actual capacity.”
Accidents involving overcrowded and inadequately maintained vessels, often lacking essential safety equipment, are not uncommon in India.
In a similar tragedy last year, a boat capsized in Kerala, a southern state of India, resulting in 22 fatalities, including the collapse of a bridge in Gujrat’s Morbi, claiming 135 lives, and a train derailment in Odisha, which led to 296 casualties.