Chintamani and Aswani, a couple who swam to safety from the capsized boat, are aghast that attempts were on to cover up the real reason behind the Thekkady tragedy
Chintamani’s hands trembled as he straightened the “death ticket” bearing the serial number 350908 of Jalakanyaka.
“I am going to keep this ticket as a souvenir of my fate and life,” said the IT professional from Bangalore who swam to safety from the boat that met with the accident.
He had also saved three passengers including his wife Asawani from the clutches of death.
The couple also thanked the moment they decided not to bring their 5-year-old-son to the Thekkady trip.
“It was last minute-decision to leave him with his grandparents that saved our son,” said Mr. Chinthamani in an emotionally charged voice.
The couple had purchased three tickets and occupied the last row of the seat at the lower berth. They chose to keep their luggage in the third seat.
“We greeted most of the passengers who were entering the boat and moved past us as we were seated at the last row. And it turned out to be their last trip,” he recounted.
“It was at around 4.30 p.m. — 30 minutes behind schedule — that the boat left the boat landing centre and I sensed some trouble with the engine as some strange noises could be heard from it. I had even pointed it out to my wife,” said Mr. Chinthamani, who is also a mechanical engineer.
“As the boat sank, I dived to the window near my side. Then I looked for the area from where light was entering the boat and moved to that direction. Aswani also followed me and we swam to safety,” he said.
The swimming skills they acquired earlier saved their lives and of two of their fellow passengers.
“We later met Sneha and Santhosh, who we rescued from the sinking vessel at the boat landing centre. We were completely shattered by the incident and could not sleep during the night,” he said.
The couple, who suffered minor injuries in the accident, criticised the handling of the situation by the authorities.
Chaos ruled the roost even hours after the accident. The boat crew was ill-equipped to handle the situation and all they did for rescuing the dying passengers was to throw the life buoys at them.
The crew was seen focusing on towing the boat to the shore as they didn’t know what to do at the crucial moments of rescue operations. It was unfortunate that attempts were made to cover up the real reason behind the accident and put the blame on the passengers, the couple said.