The judicial commission that probed the Thekkady boat tragedy has found that a defective boat, overloading and an inexperienced driver had combined to cause the accident that claimed 45 lives in the Thekkady reservoir.
Retired judge E. Moideen Kunju said in his report submitted to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy here on Thursday that the boat which met with the accident on September 30, 2009, lacked stability. It was also overloaded at the time of the accident. The driver did not have the required qualification.
The Commission held the higher officials of the Tourism Department and Kerala State Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) and others responsible for various omissions and commissions that caused the tragedy.
The boat lacked stability and the State Tourism Development Corporation had not tested the boat for stability and obtained a certificate. The Corporation did not examine whether the boat was built according to its work order. No navel architect was appointed to supervise the work. The Chief Boat Inspector of the Irrigation Department had not satisfied himself of the stability of the boat before allowing it to operate.
The boat had design flaws and its centre of gravity rose higher with additional work done on it. There were 92 passengers on board at the time of accident against the approved capacity of 75. The driver did not have the qualification to drive such a boat that required a 'srank' at the steering. The lasker had no licence. An acute turn taken by the driver led to the overturning of the boat. The boat was not capable of withstanding the worst driving conditions. None of the passengers were wearing life-jackets and this increased the toll.
Mr. Moideen Kunju said that both the builder of the boat and the Tourism Development Corporation that bought the boat — which was not built according to specifications — were responsible for the accident. KTDC Managing Director K.G. Mohanlal, Director of Tourism M. Sivasankar, Assistant Manger (Mechanical) Manoj Mathew, Chief Boat Inspector M. Mathew, Managing Director of Vignesh Marine Technical Services, Chennai, boat supervisor, driver and lasker were among those responsible for various omissions and commissions.
The Commission recommended that the proposed Maritime Board should be constituted and supervision of matters connected to the operation of boat services should be brought under it. The Board which would regulate shipping and water transport, would have the necessary expertise to ensure passenger safety.
It also suggested that the government should consider providing insurance cover to tourists. Currently, there was no legal provision to provide compensation to victims of accidents.
Earlier, while receiving the report, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy noted that the tragedy had shocked all. The government would take steps to prevent repetition of such accidents. It would examine the recommendations of the Commission in this regard and carry out all possible measures to prevent such accidents, he said.
He said that the government had limitations in deploying rapid action forces to reach all accident spots in time. Very little time would be available for rescue when the accident involved drowning. But the State needed to have a better facility for rescue and relief activities.
Keywords: Thekkady boat tragedy