Tragedy struck at the weekend in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, as a female Corps member, a pregnant woman, and five others drowned in a boat mishap at Ayama community.
Investigations revealed that the boat was conveying passengers from Otuan, also in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, to Ayama community, when the accident occurred.
Sources in the community also confirmed two kids and a 70-year-old Otuan chief, Lucky Daniels, were among the victims.
A search team made up of local divers was still searching for the boat and the corpses of the deceased in Ayama River at the time of filing this report yesterday afternoon.
It was suspected that the downpour which contributed to the accident may have washed the corpses and the boat away from the community.
Findings indicated that the boat carrying 15 passengers crashed into a blockade while trying to berth at Ayama causing it to capsize.
Sources blamed the downpour, which reduced visibility and forced all the passengers to cover themselves with tarpaulin, as a major cause of the mishap.
A journalist, Mr. Domo Timi, confirmed that his father, Chief Daniels, was one of the victims.
“My father was involved and rescue teams have been dispatched to check the scene for possible rescue. He, however, expressed the confidence of more survivors due to the fact that most passengers were putting on life jackets.
The newly elected Chairman of the Maritime Union in Otuan Community, Joseph Shedrack, blamed the accident on reckless driving, noting that the boat driver, Lucky Christopher, who survived the accident, has been arrested and detained by the Police Unit in Ayama, over alleged reckless driving.
He said if he had been around, he would not have allowed the boat to load because of the rain.
“I was chairman of the Union, but some people who claimed to know more than themselves have been taking charge of the Otuan Unit. If I had been around, I would not have allowed the loading of the boat due to poor visibility and bad weather. Those claiming to be acting allowed such trips. I was told a Corps member, two children, and a woman died. Even the Special Adviser on Security to the Governor has called me.”
The State Chairman of the Maritime Union, Mr. Ipigansi Ogoniba said six people have been confirmed missing and one dead.
“When the boat got to Ayama, it had a mishap. One corpse was recovered and handed to the family for proper burial, while three adults and three children were still missing or probably dead.”
The PRO of NYSC in the state, Mr Matthew Otuogbu, confirmed that the Corps member’s name was on the passenger’s manifest and she was not at the lodge. He said the NYSC would make a detailed report after the search and rescue, and the body recovered.