Those who witnessed the tragedy have disputed versions that the boat capsized after passengers moved suddenly to view wild animals. A tourist from London, who is also an occasional sailor, says that the cruise should have been called off a few minutes after departure
Witnesses and survivors of the Thekkady boat tragedy say that the boat was listing from the moment it left the jetty, and dismissed the version that the accident took place when the boat lurched suddenly after the passengers on the deck moved to a side of the vessel on seeing a wild animal on the banks of the lake.
“The moment the boat left the berth, it was tilting and it capsized as it took a sudden turn near Manakadavu,” said Chinthamani, a survivor.
Peter Ryan, executive chairman of the Microloan Foundation, London, who was following the ill-fated boat in another vessel, also attested to this theory.
Mr. Ryan, who is an ocassional sailor said: “I saw the vessel moving in an unstable manner from the beginning of the journey. The captain of the vessel might have realized that there was something wrong with the boat the moment it left the shore.”
“All the people on board were seated properly and no one rushed to any side of the vessel as stated by the authorities. The weather was perfect and there were no waves,” Mr. Ryan said, rubbishing earlier versions of the accident.
"Passengers not at fault"
“It is absolutely wrong to say that the vessel capsized due to the fault of the passengers. There was something wrong with the boat,” said Aswani, an architect and a survivor of the accident.
Caroline, Mr. Ryan’s wife, who also witnessed the accident from close quarters, confirmed that the boat was moving in an unusual manner from the moment it left the shore.
“This was an accident that could have been avoided if the boat crew decided to call off the trip on realizing that there was something wrong with the boat. The captain of the boat would be able to know whether there is something wrong with the vessel the moment it starts sailing.” Mr. Ryan said.
The survivors said the boat's crew was clueless about rescue operations as precious time was lost in towing the vessel to the shore. Some German travellers were the first to pull out some of the passengers from the jaws of death, they added.
Panic had gripped the staff and passengers as the boat capsized, said Ms. Aswani.
"No safety instructions from crew"
The passengers also complained that the crew had not directed the passengers to wear the life jackets.
“No one gave us any instructions regarding safety procedures or insisted that we should wear the life jackets, “ Mr. Chinthamani said.