Everything will be made clear after probe teams submit their findings, officials say
Monday's deadly collision between two launches in the Buriganga River took place due to the negligence of their drivers, a primary investigation has found.
Meanwhile, the death toll increased to 34 on Tuesday after bodies of a child and a man were pulled from the river.
Officials concerned said the accident could have been avoided if the drivers or masters of the two launches had been cautious. However, they said that there were “many connecting reasons."
“Everything will be made clear after the probe reports are received from the investigation committees,” they said.
On Monday, 32 people were killed when ML Morning Bird, coming from Kathpatti in Munshiganj, sank in the Buriganga when a larger vessel, named Mayur-2, crashed into it while reversing near Farashganj Ghat in Dhaka. Two more bodies were found on Tuesday.
At least 21 passengers of Morning Bird survived, including one man who was trapped inside an air pocket in the drowned launch for 13 hours.
A complaint arose that Mayur-2 wasn’t being operated by its main helmsman, but likely by an assistant, which led to the tragic collision.
Unfortunately, neither of the launch drivers have been found yet. Even the skipper of the capsized launch is missing.
When contacted, Shipon Howlader, helmsman of Mayur-2, said that he did not operate the launch Monday as he was on leave. “In my absence, the assistant master may have operated the launch.”
On the other hand, police claimed that they were yet to trace the driver of Morning Bird.
Authorities have seized Mayur-2 and cancelled its route permit and suspended its survey and registration certificate.
Also, a case was filed at Keraniganj police station on Tuesday. But none of the accused was arrested till the filing of the report at 7pm.
A Dhaka court on Tuesday also fixed August 17 for submission of the probe report in the case.
Commodore Golam Sadeq, chairman of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), said Morning Bird arrived from Munshiganj and Mayur-2 was checked for parking. Then Mayur-2 abruptly hit Morning Bird.
“Here, the negligence of the boatmen is clear, as per our primary observation,” he added.
“However, details of the incident will be confirmed after we get the probe report,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Md Manjurul Kabir, chief engineer and surveyor of the Department of Shipping, said: “Accidents can happen for several reasons, but as for my observation, particularly for this incident, it occurred due to the negligence of the operators.”
“It is a human failure, nothing else. Drivers and masters completely failed to do their work,” he added.
Earlier on Monday, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury observed that the launch accident seemed "premeditated."
Action after probe report
The BIWTA chairman also held a press conference at Sadarghat Launch Terminal on Tuesday, where he said: “We will take action as per the recommendations given in the investigation report.”
“Committees were asked to make specific recommendations by revealing the cause of the accident, identifying the persons or organization responsible and suggest measures needed to prevent such incidents,” he added.
Three probe committees from the Shipping Ministry, BIWTA and Department of Shipping are investigating the launch capsize.
The BIWTA committee is scheduled to submit the report at the end of this week and the other two committees will have one more week for completing their task.
“We have just started work to identify the cause of the capsize, who are the responsible, as well as fix recommendations over the issues,” said Bashir, head of the investigation committee under the Department of Shipping.
Besides, another committee, under the Shipping Ministry, is scheduled to interview witnesses who were present at the VIP Terminal of Sadarghat between 11am and 3pm on Wednesday.
However, many committees formed earlier by the government, which had recommended measures over river safety and identified the culprits, were ignored as the authorities did not take necessary action.
The BIWTA chairman said: “I would like to say that the government is now carrying out developmental activities on the basis of the recommendations of all the inquiry committee reports. We are moving forward slowly.”
Rescue efforts end
The diving teams of Fire Service and Civil Defence and Bangladesh Coast Guard recovered the body of a child at around 12:45pm Tuesday.
The BIWTA then called off the rescue and salvage operations around 2:30pm, according to Fire Service and Civil Defence control room In-Charge Enayetur Rahman.
However, Fire Service teams were continuing patrols until they were satisfied that there were no more survivors or bodies to recover, he added.
They recovered the body of man around 5:15pm., taking the death toll to 34, Fire Service officials confirmed.
Earlier, Morning Bird was brought to the surface of the water around 26 hours after the incident.
AKM Arif Uddin, joint-director of the BIWTA, said: “Morning Bird has been dragged to Comilla dockyard in Sadarghat. No more bodies were found inside.”
About the rescuing process, the BIWTA chairman said that they brought a rescue ship ‘Prottoy’ for the rescue operation. But when it came to the Postogola bridge, it hit the underbelly of the bridge, severely damaging it.
Later, rescue operations were carried out under alternative arrangements.
Vehicular movement on two lanes of the bridge was suspended Tuesday morning and resumed later in the evening.
Case against 7
A case was filed against seven people and several unknown others at South Keraniganj police station over the launch capsize.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (Dhaka zone) Abul Kalam Azad of the river police said they filed the case early Tuesday. Mosaddek Hanif Soad, the owner of Mayur-2 launch, was among the seven accused.
"We are trying to arrest the accused," Azad added.
Sadarghat river police OC Rejaul Karim Bhuiyan told Dhaka Tribune that Sub-Inspector Shamsul Alam had filed the case against the seven under Sections 280, 304 (Ka), 437, and 34 of the Penal Code.
Apart from Soad, the six other accused named in the case were members of Mayur-2 launch's crew. They were Master Abul Bashar, Master Zakir Hossain, boat captain Shipon Hawlader, Shakil Hossain, Hridoy, and Sukani Nasir Mridha, Rejaul said.
He added that five or six other unidentified individuals were also accused in the case.