THEKKADY: Confirming the widespread suspicion that the ill-fated Jalakanyaka, the KTDC-owned boat which sank in the lake five days ago, was overloaded, crime branch sleuths have unearthed the fact that there were 12 persons on the boat in addition to the 74 ticket-holders for the ride, the two-member crew and a few children below five years of age.
The total allowed capacity of the boat is 75.
Crime Branch SP P A Valsan, who is heading the probe, revealed to Express that K H Sinnur, a DRDO scientist who was on the boat with his family and lost both his children in the mishap, had stated that the boat had a faulty course from the beginning of the journey. The vessel also experienced a big jerk and a shake just five minutes before the fatal fall, according to the scientist. Sinnur said that his daughter Apoorva had even asked him just before the tragedy why the vessel was moving in such a manner. Sinnur and his family were on the upper deck of the boat. The crime branch team, which is relying heavily on the statements recorded from Sinnur as a witness, said that the scientist persisted in his stand that the vessel had turned turtle only because of a mechanical defect. Incidentally, Sinnur is a qualified mechanical engineer, designated as a scientist with t h e DRDO. According t o Sinnur,there was no heavy rush of tourists inside the boat to one side to view the wild animals, as has been reported. The boat was travelling at high speed when it took a sharp turn, capsizing in a matter of seconds, he stated.
SP P A Valsan disclosed that Sinnur had stated that 12 persons were seated on plastic chairs arranged at the back on the upper deck. Sinnur and his family were in the last row of fixed seats and the chairs were just behind them. Crime Branch sleuths elicited evidence to support Sinnur's statement from Aneesh, the laskar of the boat. It is reliably learnt that Victor Samuel, the driver of the boat who was under treatment for chest pain in the medical college at Theni, is also under surveillance by the probe team.
Express had reported earlier that a corrupt system exists in Thekkady, promoted by the boat inspector and crew in collusion with lower rung officials of the KTDC and Forest Department, of allowing ticketless travellers on board on payment.
The initial findings of the Crime Branch seem to confirm this.