BOAT PROBE | At least 12 ‘missing’ persons have been identified from items recovered from wreckage of the boat that capsized and killed more than 30 revellers on Lake Victoria last month.
Briefing journalists on security precautions during the festive season, Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima said that, as part of investigations into the boat accident, Police are trying to establish whether the 12 unaccounted for persons, all but one a woman, were among those whose dead bodies were recovered, the survivors rescued or those who have gone missing.
Police have previously said that only five persons were missing, a big contradiction in the figures as various accounts from survivors have indicated that more than 100 revellers boarded the boat on November 24.
However, survivors like Irene Namubiru have indicated in their accounts that a boat that approached the MV Templar and offered to take some of those onboard back to the shores after the fishermen noted it was having trouble sailing took some people with them.
Namubiru indicated that as many as 15 people took the offer and returned to the shore before the cruise boat capsized.
Last week, Nile Post, a local news website, reported that Eron Ndagire, who was reported missing, had been found hiding in Kawempe, a city suburb.
Ndagire told her relatives that she was one of those who took the offer of the fishermen’s boat and left the ill-fated cruise boat before the accident.
However, there have been reports that some survivors fled as soon as they got ashore for fear of being identified, leaving rescuers and recovery efforts looking for their bodies in the wreckage and the water.
The boat, owned by Michael Bisase, aka Templar, capsized near Mutima beach in Mukono, with Police records showing that 32 people on board drowned.
Bisase and his wife Sheila were among the victims.
At least 37 other revellers, including high profile personalities such as Buganda prince David Wasajja, musician Irene Namubiru and former musician Hope Mukasa, are accounted for as rescued.
At the media briefing at Central Police Station in Kampala on Monday, Kayima that “some properties were recovered and the investigation teams are handling these to establish whether these are part of the survivors or the dead.”
The items recovered include fuel cards, credit cards, driving permits, ATM cards and National IDs and mobile phones.
‘Missing persons named’
Some of the persons whose documents were recovered include Stella Byabashaija Ntanda, whose bag was recovered from the wreckage with credit cards, driving permit, National ID and fuel card inside.
Bags belonging to Yudaya Nantege and Doreen Arinaitwe had National IDs, while that of Samalie Nakakazi had a driving permit and National ID, and Uganda Law Society membership card.
Stella Nabasa’s driving permit was found in a recovered bag, just like for Zahura Namayanja, and Lindah Nankungu.
Others were Mariam Nakigudde (ATM card), Irene Alitubeera (National ID), Barbra Kabagambe (driving permit) and Martha Kawalya (driving permit and National ID).
The only man whose documents were recovered was Paul Apuuli (National ID).
“In total, we recovered 27 handbags, nine chairs, a generator and a speaker, seven mobile phones, 12 National IDS, four pairs of men’s shoes, three pairs of shoes for ladies and an assortment of clothes,” Police said in a statement.
The search also recovered Shs500,000. Police said some of this money has already been claimed by the owners.
The wreckage of the boat pulled to the shore on Saturday and the operation has since been called off.
“We applaud the different teams of experts that joined hands with the Uganda Police Force Marine Unit to address the tragedy. These include UPDF, Ministry of Works officials, Uganda Railways, Mango Tree Ship, divers from KK Beach and the local fishermen,” Kayima said.
He said the local community offered Police a lot of support that cannot be taken for granted and paid a special tribute to Bosco Owecho, a local fisherman from Buzindare Island, who died while rescuing those trapped in the boat cruise tragedy.
“By the time we called off the operation, we did not have any hopes of recovering any more bodies. However, in case of any other reports, we are open to receive them and act on them accordingly,” Kayima said.
Meanwhile, Police also issued guidelines on partying around water bodies during the festive season.
Among the precaution measures include not allowing swimmers without professional guides and life savers in close proximity, no swimming beyond 6pm, and no swimming while under influence of drugs or alcohol.
“We advise parents and care givers to always guide children under their care to take these precautions, keeping in mind that security and safety starts with you. It is a sign of irresponsibility to leave your personal security and safety entirely in the hands of security agencies without you having interest and taking steps in that direction,” Police said.
Kayima said Police are in the process of carrying out operations to inspect all boats and vessels on water bodies to ensure their water worthiness.