Sur­vivors, kin drown in tears of sor­row

The New Indian Express - - FRONT PAGE - @ On­gole

SIX-YEAR-OLD Sai Ujjwala, the only daugh­ter of Satish, a reg­is­tered med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner in On­gole, ap­pears tired. She has been sleep­ing ever since she re­turned from Vijayawada on Mon­day morn­ing. Just a day ear­lier, she had been in high spir­its.

The Class I stu­dent was on a trip with her grand­par­ents, Pa­supuleti Si­tar­ma­iah (65) and An­jamma (58), to Amar­a­vati and Vijayawada. The high­light of the trip was to be the boat ride to the Pavithra Sanga­mam. But that did not tran­spire. The joy ride quickly turned fa­tal.

An­jamma, Si­tara­ma­iah and Ujjwala fell into the river along with the other pas­sen­gers. An­jamma was washed away within sec­onds. Her husband, who tried to hold her, could not do so and in the process, he too drifted into the waters. Ujjwala, though, held on to the boat’s rail­ing firmly and man­aged to stay afloat for close to 25 min­utes.

Though well-wish­ers thronged the girl’s house, she seemed un­able to un­der­stand what had hap­pened. She woke up only when her mother told her she could have an ice cream.

Asked how she stayed afloat, all that she could say was “po­lice took away grand­fa­ther .... grand­mother drowned.” Satish, her fa­ther, was in a shock and could hardly speak. His rel­a­tive TSR Murthy told Ex­press, “It is a mir­a­cle that Chitti (Ujjwala) sur­vived. She clung to a rod on one side of the boat. In about 20-25 min­utes, peo­ple on a nearby boat came and pulled her out.”

He said as the news of the tragedy broke, Satish called up his friend Dr Sud­hakar Reddy and asked him to search for his par­ents and daugh­ter. “For­tu­nately, Reddy and his wife Deepthi were at the ghat. They were on a dif­fer­ent boat. They traced the girl in 20 min­utes. When they found her, she was sit­ting with a for­lorn look. They spoke to her par­ents on What­sApp and Chitti too did, but she couldn’t say any­thing ex­cept that her grand­fa­ther was taken by the cops and her grand­mother drowned,” he said. Si­tara­ma­iah breathed his last a few hours later.

Dou­ble tragedy struck Manasvi, a fi­nal-year BTech stu­dent of VITS Vel­lore En­gi­neer­ing Col­lege, and a res­i­dent of Manga­muru road in the town. Her mother D Lilavathi (50) was among those who died in the boat cap­size in Kr­ishna river near Pavithra Sanga­mam on Sun­day. The body ar­rived at their res­i­dence around 4.30 a.m. While she was in grief, her grand­mother Ravipati Lak­shmi Kan­thamma (70), ar­rived a cou­ple of hours later. Lak­shmi Kan­thamma wasn’t in­formed of her daugh­ter’s death.

One of her rel­a­tives said she was shocked to find her daugh­ter’s body. She was in­con­solable. She went to the wash­room and col­lapsed just as she re­turned to the hall, he added. Kan­thamma died of heart at­tack.

The dou­ble tragedy left Manasvi shell-shocked. Her fa­ther had died in 1989 and her mother worked for a pri­vate com­pany. Lilavathi’s sis­ter Susheela and her husband Kr­ishna are tak­ing care of her now.

The last rites of the mother and daugh­ter will be per­formed on Tues­day af­ter the re­turn of Susheela and Kr­ishna’s son from the US.

CM puts onus on op­er­a­tor

Chief Min­is­ter N Chan­drababu Naidu has said that the ir­re­spon­si­ble at­ti­tude of the boat op­er­a­tor led to the deaths.

Is­su­ing a state­ment in the AP Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly on Mon­day, the Chief Min­is­ter said that the boat op­er­a­tor did not ob­tain li­cence from the con­cerned gov­ern­ment depart­ment. More­over, the op­er­a­tor had ap­pointed an in­ex­pe­ri­enced helms­man, who had no proper knowl­edge on the nav­i­ga­tion route.

As a re­sult of the boat driver’s fail­ure in con­trol­ling the boat, the panic-gripped pas­sen­gers went to a side of the boat, re­sult­ing in its col­lapse, the Chief Min­is­ter ex­plained.

“It is an un­par­don­able mis­take by the boat op­er­a­tor. The ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity was such that they even failed to pro­vide life jack­ets to pas­sen­gers, ex­cept a woman,’’ the Chief Min­is­ter said and af­firmed that all the per­sons re­spon­si­ble for the tragedy would be pros­e­cuted and pun­ished.

Stat­ing that the gov­ern­ment will take mea­sures to avoid re­cur­rence of such in­ci­dents, the Chief Min­is­ter said that an ex­pert com­mit­tee con­sist­ing of IAS and IPS of­fi­cers and other of­fi­cials will be formed to con­duct a de­tailed probe into the cir­cum­stances that led to the ac­ci­dent and sug­gest ways to pre­vent such ac­ci­dents in fu­ture.

The gov­ern­ment will also cre­ate an au­thor­ity, if needed, to bring things in order.

To­tal re­vamp

Ex­press­ing deep sor­row over the death of tourists in the tragedy at Pavithra Sanga­mam, which is emerg­ing as a tourism spot, the Chief Min­is­ter hinted at em­bark­ing on a to­tal re­vamp to cor­rect all the lapses in the wa­ter tourism sec­tor to en­sure safety and win the trust of the tourists.

With the MLAs de­mand­ing strin­gent ac­tion against the boat op­er­a­tor, the Chief Min­is­ter said that the po­lice would con­duct a through in­quiry to en­sure con­vic­tion of the cul­prits.

It is an un­par­don­able mis­take by the boat op­er­a­tor. The ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity was such that they even failed to pro­vide life jack­ets to pas­sen­gers, ex­cept a woman N Chan­drababu Naidu, Andhra Chief Min­is­ter

Manasvi’s (sit­ting) mother drowned and grand­mother (in­set) died on see­ing the body

Ujjwala had a mirac­u­lous escape but her grand­par­ents died in the in­ci­dent

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