Home | TOP NEWS | Eleven children drowned when overloaded boat capsized on Lake Chivero on Christmas Day.

Eleven children drowned when overloaded boat capsized on Lake Chivero on Christmas Day.

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Eleven children drowned when an overloaded boat capsized during a cruise on Lake Chivero at around 6:30pm on Christmas Day.

The boat, which carries five people, had 16 children and three adults on board. Eight people - including the three adults and skipper, Enock Zulu - survived. He was yesterday assisting police with investigations.

The deceased were aged between six and 16 years. All bodies were retrieved yesterday morning by members of the Police Sub-Aqua Unit.
Extended family members and friends boarded the craft at Fish Eagle, a recreational facility operating along the shoreline and sailed across the lake before the boat capsized near Hunyani Hills Hotel. Fish Eagle manager Mr Jacob Isheunesu said they will only comment on the tragedy after police investigations have been completed.

Mr Timothy Joramu (36), a survivor, said: "I was in the boat with my brother's two sons and my landlord's son. Unfortunately, I only managed to save my landlord's son and one of my brother's sons. Many people were clinging onto me as I was the one able to swim. It might be an accident, but I am hurt by the way the crew reacted."

Mr Tobias Kaseke of Dzivaresekwa, who lost two sons said: "My sons Sprenner (12) and Anesu (10) begged me to bring them here because I am a driver with Zimbulk and I am hardly at home. I also came with my friend Douglas Ruzvidzo who lost his only two children Tanaka (10) and Tatenda (6). Douglas also lost his sister-in-law Nunurai Chitungo (16) and his niece Angeline Kasito (16)."

He had also taken with him Jamal January (7) and Pathras Chimimba (13), children of his two brothers-in-law. Shanice Ruzvidzo (14) said the boat crew had earlier been warned against overloading, but did not take heed.

"Before departing, someone had suggested that one of the crew members stays behind, but he refused saying he was there to assist the driver. During the cruise, the skipper asked us what we would do if we were to capsize. That is when we asked him to let us disembark at Hunyani Hills. As we approached the shoreline to dock, he reduced speed and the boat's nose dipped and the craft flipped over."

Shanice said she survived by holding onto a rope attached to a stationary boat close by.

"I managed to get into the boat and was rescued by people who witnessed the accident."

Police Officer Commanding Harare Province Senior Assistant Commissio-ner Clement Munoriarwa said: "We are still trying to establish what caused the boat to capsize, but preliminaries show that there were too many people in the boat.

"We urge those in charge to always ensure that boats do not exceed their carrying capacity to avoid such losses."

National Parks and Wildlife management authority public relations manager Ms Caroline Washaya-Moyo said no one is allowed to conduct any safari activity - including cruises - after 6pm.

"We are shocked to see some people going against the law. Just a general look at the boat will show that it is too small to carry more than five people," she said.

Ms Washaya-Moyo said Fish Eagle was a "free to hold property."

"This means it's a private property and we do not have a right to maintain our presence on such a property. It is only after we come across someone violating lake rules that we tackle them and it is unfortunate tragedy struck when we were not anywhere nearby," she said.

An official from Lake Navigation Control, a department under the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development, Mr Warren Nyekete, said the boat had no safety equipment.

"Under normal circumstances, the skipper of the boat should be licensed. Since it had passengers on board, the owner of the boat should produce a survey certificate as well as a permit to operate the boat on the lake," he said.

He said their task was to ensure and enforce lake users' safety, which they do on a daily basis by patrolling the lake.
"We actually spent the day on duty and left before tragedy struck as the time by which people are allowed to be on the lake had passed. We believe the skipper of the boat was tempted by the late rush of people wanting to be on the lake since it was Christmas Day," he said.

Boat operators charge US$5 per head for a 10-minute ride. Hunyani Hills owner Mr Tony Hickey, who helped bring all the survivors to shore, said the owner of the boat had tried to move the boat from the scene, but he stopped him. 

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