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Four One One

‘I promise to live a better life,’ boat tragedy survivor turns to God

(L) Arnold Simbwa dances atop the ill-fated MV Templar boat. (R) Arnold Simbwa before the tragedy. COURTESY PHOTOS

Arnold Simbwa, one of the survivors of the recent Lake Victoria boat tragedy, has repented and turned his life to God after what he believes was a miracle.

The 33-year-old shared his testimony on Sunday at Victory Christian Centre Ndeeba after accepting Jesus.

Simbwa, flanked by his wife, admitted that like many others who got onto the ill-fated MV Templar boat, his family members had no clue where he had gone. It is only a house help who saw him move out of home with a bag.

When news broke out about the boat capsizing with Prince David Wasajja on board, his family believed he was dead because he was regularly in the company of the Buganda royal.

“If you have watched those videos taken before the boat capsized I was that guy that was dancing on top. I was very drunk. When I got down I decided to take a power nap onto of a very loud speaker. The music was so loud but I slept off,” he says.

Simbwa was woken up by a wet sensation he felt in his shoes. “I thought I had urinated on myself but upon checking myself I realized that water had gotten into the boat. The waves on Lake Victoria were very violent that day on top of all the issues the boat had,” he said.

The boat was being rocked from side to side and the generator and the music speakers fell into the water which Simbwa says should was the revelers’ first warning that there was trouble.

He was able to tell when a big wave was about to hit the boat (thanks to swimming trainings he had undergone) and lunged onto the sides of the boat. Simbwa chose not to swim because, even though the distance from the boat to the shore was short, he knew he would probably drown because of the state he was in. When the boat eventually capsized, he held onto the boat
“There is a man who was holding onto my leg and I wanted to kick him but I knew that I would not forgive myself for the rest of my life. So I let him hold onto it because I knew the water would eventually wash him away. I could not give him my hand because in that time you are selfish…it is about you. He let go of my hand leg slowly by slowly until the water swept him away.”

He says that while held onto the boat, he said a prayer to God and asked him for only one chance to right the wrongs he had done.
“I said ‘God please help me. My children are still young. Give me a chance to raise them’,”
Simbwa narrates that initially there was a lot of struggle as the revelers fought to save their lives but in a short period of time the lake was quiet and all he could see were dead bodies with a few cries.
“I heard some few people crying out for their children which I think was wrong because the more you talk or shout the more you lose breathe,” he says.

Simbwa did not jump onto the first rescue boats because they were overcrowded and he could tell that they would also capsize. When the third boat came, the fisherman asked him to only hold onto it but not get inside it because it was also already over packed.

According to Simbwa, many of those who had been gotten from the water died because they were not given CPR.
“I thank God that he has given me a chance. I still need God. My home is in disarray. We still have a lot to talk about with my wife. A lot has been said but I believe that this is a good start,” he said.

He says that his wife who got saved recently had been begging him to get saved but he had refused.

Simbwa had earlier shared his survival story on his Facebook page.

Thanks guys for all your love, messages of concern and most importantly your prayers, for they did not go in vain! I am alive and safe.

Well, several stories and versions of our tragedy have graced sitting rooms, airways and the social media. Some are total lies and some are half truths, completely distorting what actually happened…

While on the lake and just 200m away from the shore, the Captain realised that the tide was high and dangerously moving towards the boat. He alerted us and requested all of us to sit down and be calm.

He decided not to hit the tide head-on but turn the boat around and drift with it. All those stories of water slipping through, of overloading the boat are all false. In the process of turning the boat, the tide hit us from the sides and due to its enormous speed, the boat was forced to flip on one of its sides in a rather slow gradual motion. Guys fell off as it slowly capsized.

I fell into the water, and came back up to frightened screams and total confusion. I decided to hold myself onto one of the boats rails under water. I could only come up once in a while to gasp for fresh air and go back under water. I prayed and prayed to God to save me, I repented all my sins and promised God I would live a better life henceforth! I prayed for one more chance to share my life with my kids.

Twenty minutes or so that chance came, an engine canoe sailed my way but it was too full. I hanged onto one of it’s sides as it moved towards the shore….just like that my life was saved, but what I found at the shore was more traumatising than the time I spent under water!

At the shore, I found bodies lined up of people I knew, people I had shared with jokes, laughter, a couple of drinks and people I have broken bread with! I could not hold myself together as I closed their eyes one by one. I couldn’t believe how short this life is.

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