Survivors, kin drown in tears of sorrow
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.
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