Experts of the Indian Shipping Technology and Forensic Department and Crime Branch Inspector General R. Sreelekha on Wednesday conducted a joint probe in to the boat tragedy in which 45 tourists were killed when ‘Jalakanyaka’ owned by Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), capsized in the Mullaperiyar lake here on September 30.
The main focus of the probe was the condition survey of the ill-fated boat by the team of experts led by Mr. Pyarilal, head of the Department of Shipping Technology, Cochin University of Science and Technology. The survey started by 1 p.m. and continued in to the evening. The boat was checked for stability and whether any defects existed in the design.
Meanwhile, the Crime Branch and Forensic team visited the accident spot at Manakkavala, nearly four km from the boat-landing station. The shipping experts’ team recorded the figures judged by the natural gravity of the boat before and after loading weight in the lower deck of the two-decked fibre boat. The length and width of the boat were also recorded to analyse the safety aspect of the boat in its construction.
The boat was brought in three parts from a Chennai-based company and was assembled at Thekkady recently.
Earlier, the experts’ team cleaned the debris of the glass pieces which were broken while conducting the rescue and search operation and removed the water and other elements from the boat to make it completely free of weight. The expert team also collected details of the weight-balancing capacity of the boat on the upper deck and under the lower deck.
A huge crowd of media persons, including those from outside the State, had assembled at the boat-landing station from 10 a.m.on reports that the probe team would be reaching the area in the morning.
The inquiry by the expert team gains significance in the wake of suspicions that the tragedy was the result of technical defects in the boat’s design and poor quality fibre used for construction. Various other factors could have lead to the accident - the boat might have run over a tree stump below the water; the over-loading of tourists and the sudden twist of the boat to one side; and the driver steering the boat suddenly when the tourists sighted the animals.
It was also alleged that the single hull boat got the fitness certificate from the Indian Registrar of Shipping without a proper survey to judge the technological and related aspects of the boat. Various agencies had been inquiring into the tragedy and the District Collector has also been asked to report on the circumstances that led to the accident.