Mumbai: One person was killed and two injured after a speed boat carrying around 25 persons hit an underwater rock and later capsized while on a trip for a 'puja' ceremony at the proposed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai on Wednesday.
The incident happened around 4.15 pm when the boat's hull was ruptured after hitting the rock, and water quickly started flooding its insides. It then tilted dangerously, triggering panic among the passengers.
Owned by the Maharashtra government, the speed boat had several people, including mediapersons and activists of the Shiv Sangram party, on board, said Shiv Smarak Samiti chairman Vinayak Mete. It was heading to the underwater site of the proposed memorial complex, around 3.5 kilometres off Marine Drive, when it hit an underwater rock near a lighthouse there.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the media he will order a detailed investigation into the incident.
The body of a 20-year-old political activist, Siddhesh Pawar, was recovered a few hours later from the capsized boat with the hep of Indian Navy divers and fire brigade personnel, said an official of the BMC disaster control unit.
The two others injured — Vikrant Ambre (50) and Ashok Lodha (53) — were treated at a hospital and later discharged.
Mete said that around 200 persons, including mediapersons, government officials and political activists, had departed in several boats from the Gateway of India jetty for the memorial function.
"I have visited that site over a dozen times, but such a thing has never happened. The authorities had taken all safety precautions, and the boats were not overloaded," Mete said after returning to the jetty.
Earlier, the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Marine Police and other agencies had launched an operation with three helicopters, a hovercraft and boats to search for Pawar.
A second boat, which was in the vicinity of the ill-fated one, managed to reach the tragedy spot within minutes and helped rescue all those on board the boat. The damaged boat was towed away by a Marine Police vessel to Sassoon Docks in Colaba.
Official sources said confusion prevailed over the incident, as there was no list of crew or passengers available. There were two boats that had gone to the site, but it was unclear whether the passengers were wearing safety jackets since the sea continues to be rough.
After the incident, the Maharashtra government postponed the planned function at the memorial.
Leader of Opposition Radkakrishna Vikhe-Patil, activists, fishermen leaders and Opposition legislators criticized the government's decision to go ahead with the memorial even though the proposed site is unsafe.
Some eyewitnesses claimed that the caption of the boat had lost his way, and the vessel was drifting in the vicinity for over an hour before it hit the rock. Besides, passengers were reportedly not given life jackets.
Education Minister Vinod Tawde, who went to meet the rescued persons, called the incident "extremely unfortunate".
Located around 3.5 kilometres in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai's Marine Drive, the site envisages a grand 212-metre tall statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji on a 84-metre-high pedestal, along with a huge memorial complex after reclaiming around four acres of land from the sea.
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Updated Date: Oct 24, 2018 21:38 PM