Idasefirma: I know that some people were still under the water when I was rescued because we’re all struggling under the water.”
Ndukwe: I was the last person to be rescued and there were still other persons in the water who may have drowned
Odelusi: The person who held onto my leg when I was rescued didn’t come out of the water; we were 25 in the boat, but I saw 15 after I was rescue
Admin I Monday, August 13, 2018
ABONNEMA, Port Harcourt, Nigeria – New facts have emerged that indicate that Joseph Blankson was not the only person that died when the boat he was travelling in from Abonnema Wharf in Port Harcourt to Bakana, on Saturday, July 28, capsized in the course of the journey.
Three female survivors told Journalists, at a news conference, in Port Harcourt, on Monday, that they were sure that other passengers onboard the boat also died. The survivors, Ibimina Idasefirma; Cecilia Chinonso Ndukwe; and Bunmi Joy Odelusi noted that there were 25 passengers onboard the boat and that those that were rescued from the water were about 15. They insisted that the number of those who were rescued were not up to the 25 that boarded the boat from Port Harcourt.
They attributed the cause of the accident to the recklessness of the boat driver whom they claimed was over-speeding and attempted to negotiate a sharp bend at Iboroma on top-speed.Idesafirma attributed the boat accident to recklessness and over-speeding in the part of the boat driver.
Ndukwe lamented: “I complained before the commencement of the journey why we were not provided with life vests, but the boat driver kept insisting that nothing will happen after all, Bakana was not far from Port Harcourt.”
Ndukwe noted that she was the last person to be rescued from the water, adding that some passengers were still in the water at the time she was rescued.
Odelusi, a survivor, also maintained that the person that held on to her leg at the time she was rescued did not come out of the water until all the survivors were taken out of the river bank were they gathered for sometime before they were ferried by another boat to Port Harcourt.
All three survivors claimed that they were rescued by young men who came to assist them with other boats. “Those who rescued us were not passengers onboard our boat. We learnt that some of them lived in nearby communities close to where the accident occurred.”
They stated that in the memory of those who died and not accounted for; and for the safety of prospective boat passengers, they have resolved to establish a “Boat Safety Minders Foundation” to ensure that safety rules and regulations are properly adhered to by boat drivers.
Higher King, a lawyer and human rights advocate who coordinated the media event enjoined Journalists and the Police to do more investigation to find out if other passengers, other than Joe Blankson, died when the ill-fated boat capsized.
He appealed to other survivors to call: 08035535589 to state their own side of the story. From what I have heard from these survivors, there is a lot more that the public do not know. And we all need to know exactly what transpired.”
They insisted that life vests must be given to all passengers and the manifest comprising the names and phone numbers and addresses, including next of kin of everyone onboard must be written down before the boat embarks on the journey.
Idasefirma attributed her survival to an act of God. “We were under the water. I can’t swim. But I kept moving my legs and hands to stay afloat. Suddenly, my head came out of the water and I saw some boats racing towards me.”
“I quickly held on the the fibre of the boat that capsized with my right hand. The young men onboard the boat that came to rescue us kept telling me to hold on to the boat. Then, they held my left hand that was in the water and pulled me with so much force that my hand came out its socket.”
“I am still in pains. I could not talk, sleep and even eat for days. I am still in shock. I know that some people were still under the water when I was rescued because I saw them struggling when I was struggling under the water.”
Responding to a question, Idasefirma observed: “There was an old man sitting beside me.He does not even know Bakana. He does not know how to swim. He said he has not boarded a boat before. I recall, vividly, because he was the one that collected our money. He did not leave the river bank with us who are the survivors.”
She was asked: Is it not possible the old man you are referring to left with another boat after being rescued earlier before the young men brought you out of the water? “All those that were rescued gathered at the bank of the river and I did not see him. And he did not leave with us.”
Ndukwe narrated: “I got to the Abonnema Wharf Jetty at about 1pm on Saturday, July 28. There was no boat. So we all waited. When the boat arrived, we all entered. The diver didn’t give us life jackets. We complained. But I decided to enter because I saw my friend who also entered the boat.”
“We past the creek and entered the main water with waves. Then, suddenly, the boat ceased and capsized. I was just struggling and drinking water. I tried to bring out my head but each time I tried, my head hit the boat. That was when I knew that we were under the boat.”
“Then, a big wave came and threw us farther from the boat. I raised up my head and saw the fibre of the boat and held on to it. I then saw a boat racing towards us. The young men onboard now told me “madam you are safe. They first held my dress by my neck and pulled me with my left hand into the boat that they came with.”
“I don’t know how many survivors left before I was rescued. But I know for sure that I was the last person they rescued. They were looking around to see if there were other people in the water. They waited for me to recover for awhile because my hand pulled out of its socket because of the force they applied in pulling me from the water.”
She maintained: “When I say that I am last person that was rescued I am very sure of what I am saying. It was God that saved me. The wave threw me far away from the boat. Joe Blankson might have saved some other persons but there is no way I would know.”
“I was already going. But my head came out of the water, and then, they saw me. And rescued me. I can recall that when my head came out of the water the other people were far away from me. My survival is an act of God.”
Ndukwe recalled: “I was the only person that complained about the non-availability of life vests for the passengers. The boat driver kept telling me madam, relax. Bakana is just a few minutes from Port Harcourt. I impressed it upon the driver and other passengers that I was a safety conscious person.”
“As soon as we passed the creek and the boat entered the broad side of the river, we heard a sound from the engine. The problem was that the driver was on high speed and wanted to negotiate a bend on the same speed without slowing down. That was the cause of the boat accident.”
“I raised up my head from the water but it hit the boat. We were many under the water. People were dragging my bag; holding my legs and pulling my shoes. We were all clustered in one small area. So, I told myself I am not going to drown here.”
“So, I let my go to extricate myself from the person that was pulling it. And that is a fact. I kicked off my shoes and swarm away from others. I was so tired I had to lie on the water to rest. Then, I saw a boat coming and swarm towards it. People drowned in the river.”
Ndukwe explained: “Immediately the accident happened, members of the nearby community started ringing bells. They quickly mobilised boats and came to our rescue. What I know as a survivor is that we got help from members of the community where the accident occurred.”
“I kept insisting that the boat driver should have given us life vests. We came across the coast guards not long after we took of from Abonnema Wharf and he saluted and waved at us to go on with our journey. I was disappointed.”
Ndukwe wondered: “How coast guards see a boat with 25 passengers without life vests and allow it to continue on that journey. After we passed the creek, what I was complaining of how it happened. It is so sad.”
Odelusi who was onboard the boat stated: “I was the second person to be rescued. In all, I saw seven persons including me, eight. Lives were lost in the water on that day and it is sad and unfortunate. Their families are at home Waiting for them. And there is no one to account for them. And this is not a matter that we should gloss over.”
“My survival is an act of God. I don’t know how to swim. I saw myself under the water. So, I tried to raise up my head and head hit the boat. I tried with my hands, my hands, again, touched the boat. It was then I said to myself, this is an accident.”
“I began moving my hands and legs in an attempt to get away from under the boat. I succeeded. My head came up and I saw the boat we had entered and held on to a rope. I also saw about five boats racing towards us.”
She recalled: “The man on the boat then told me not to leave the rope that I was holding. He then lifted me unto the boat that he came with. Before then, someone was holding my leg under the water and I kept saying: Jesus….Jesus.. please save me. Don’t let me drown.”
“The man in the boat now told me that he was going to leave me on the boat and I pleaded with him not to. I told him someone was still inside the water and the person has been holding my leg. He said, ok. He will go into the water and try to rescue the person. I didn’t see him come out with the person.”
Odelusi lamented: “We were 24 passengers in the boat, plus the driver, 25. When I was brought onshore, I saw about 15 people. We were not more than 15. So, where are the rest people? I am worried.”
Police Public Relations Officer, DSP, Nnamdi Omoni, insisted that only one person died who is Joe Blankson and has since been buried.
But the boat drivers in a stakeholders meeting with the chairman of Degema council insisted that there was only one casualty whose body had been recovered and buried. They, however, challenged anyone with conflicting and verifiable figures to present them for public scrutiny.
The boat drivers further maintained that all survivors have been re-united with their families. So far, no one has seen any other body floating in the waterways, a week after the sad accident occurred.