Vadodara boat capsize incident.
Vadodara boat capsize incident.Photo | ANI

Key accused in Gujarat boat tragedy that killed 14 arrested

With this, the police have so far arrested nine out of the 19 people named in the FIR.

VADODARA: Police on Thursday arrested a man who used to handle the overall operations of a recreation zone at a lake in Harni area near Vadodara where 12 school students and two teachers died in a boat capsize tragedy last week, an official said.

With this, the police have so far arrested nine out of the 19 people named in the FIR.

The man, Paresh Shah, whose family members are partners in the Kotia Projects which was given the contract by the civic body to operate boats and other leisure activities at Motnath Lake in Harni area, was arrested from a highway on the city outskirts on Thursday morning, a senior police official said.

"Investigations revealed that Shah was handling the overall operations of the Kotia Projects and was on the run after the tragedy. Employees of the firm at the lake zone used to report to Shah. We have arrested him from the outskirts of the city. Efforts are on to nab the others," Deputy Commissioner of Police Panna Momaya said.

Vadodara boat capsize incident.
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Though Shah was not formally associated with the firm on paper, his wife, son and daughter are associated with the firm as partners and have also been named as accused in the FIR, the official said.

Twelve students and two teachers of the New Sunrise School on a picnic drowned, while 18 students and two teachers were rescued after an overloaded boat capsized in the Motnath Lake on the city's outskirts on January 18.

The police have registered a case under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code against 19 persons in connection with the boat tragedy.

As per the FIR, Kotia Projects was given a contract by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) to operate the Harni Lake Zone in 2017.

Those arrested so far include four partners of Kotia Projects, its manager and and boat operators.

In its complaint, the Vadodara civic body pointed out lapses, including non-maintenance of boats by the Kotia Projects and not keeping the adequate number of life-saving equipment and life jackets, on the part of the contractor.

It was also revealed that only a few students were given life jackets on the day of the incident.

According to officials, the Kotia Projects had sub-let the contract for boating activities to another company, and the boat operator had no prior experience.

The Gujarat High Court has directed the state government to submit an action taken report (ATR) on the death of students and teachers in the boat tragedy, observing that it has "shocked the conscience" of the public.

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