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‘How we made it out alive’ – deadly boat cruise survivors speak out

Boat accident wasajja namubiru

Singer Iryn Namubiru and Prince David Wasajja are among those who survived. COURTESY/FILE PHOTOS

Shamila Nsereko

We departed from KK Beach [in Ggaba]. Originally the departure time was 12pm but for some unknown reasons, we were delayed until 5pm. People used this time to drink [alcohol]. When the boat finally came, it was big and could not come to the shores. We instead used canoes to board it.

Before we could go far, the boat started losing balance. We ignored this and thought it was normal because we were told in the beginning that the waves would affect its balance.

As we kept moving, we suddenly realised water was entering the boat. A helmsman told us to sit side by side such that we could balance the boat. By now, we were in the middle of the lake and waves were stronger. Musical systems started falling off. At this moment, all of us went to the upper side of the boat as one side had already been submerged. Even the upper side started sinking and suddenly we saw our friends drop into the water one by one.

We were close to Mutima Country Haven Beach. Some of the people there realised something was wrong and started sending canoes to help. Those who survived held on the edge of the boat until the rescue team came.

We had some life jackets but some people did not wear them. Some said having jackets would spoil their sense of style when taking pictures for social media.

Some were very drunk and could not listen to instructions of wearing life jackets. I survived by God’s mercy because I did not know how to swim.

We were going to have some fun on the island but personally, I was going to supply drinks as I have always done. Everything was shrouded in mystery. First, the boat came in at 5pm yet it was slated to be there at midday. As soon as we started the journey, the engine kept going on and off.

We would reach at some point and the engine stops working completely, then the boat would just float. The people responsible would repair it and then we would continue the journey with assurance that the boat was fine and it was the waves causing some problems.

But when we reached the middle of the lake, the waves intensified and we could see that the boat was losing balance but management reassured us that we would reach safely.

Soon, water starting entering the boat which made people to get scared.

Many ran to the upper deck. Water increased, the music speakers fell into the water, and then the generator also fell. The boat was left swaying on the water, the engine could not work anymore. We were more than 100 people on board.

It was at this moment the boat started capsizing. Even the good swimmers found it hard to get out of the trap. What helped me was the life jacket. Many did not have.

I fought hard to get out and even hurt my eye while trying to find a way out from the bottom. The boat was too slippery and I found it hard to hold on it. Luckily in my struggles I chanced on a way out and climbed the upper part of the boat. I started calling for help. Those at Mutima beach heard our cries and came to our rescue.

The first rescue canoe that came capsized too when it was overwhelmed by the number of people [seeking to enter it]. Only one person survived on that canoe. Even the rescue team died. As I was floating, other boats came in and rescued me.

At Mutima beach, we were told the boat had not been working for three weeks. Even the delay was caused by the repairs.

Prince Wasajja survived because he had a life jacket and when the rescue team came, he was easily recognised. As for Irene Namubiru, (local singer), I think she sensed danger early, asked for a life jacket and when the boat started sinking, she jumped into water and started swimming.

What stakeholders say

“A boat carrying more than 12 people is a passenger boat and should be designed differently from a fishing boat. The ill-fated boat was leaking and did not have a crane,” Aggrey Bagiire, State Minister for transport

“This boat was repaired on Saturday in a crude way because the owners had got some business. It was not tested whether the leak was sealed. Police stopped them from sailing but they refused…,” Henry Hategeka, Principal Marine Inspector

“My sister Justine Namayanja on Saturday left home, telling us a friend had invited her for a boat cruise. When we heard about the news… we came here and identified her body after it was retrieved,” Jessica Karungi, Relative of victim

“We tried to rescue the survivors by sending our divers to help but we had no contract with any of them since they were heading to Palm Beach…,” Micheal Tendo, Events manager Mutima Beach

“Police stopped the boat owners from sailing but they overpowered the Police. Sometimes when you are a law enforcement officer and you are faced with a situation of mob justice, you should step back…,” Asumani Mugenyi, POLICE DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS



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