ONE man drowned and 24 others had a close shave after a speedboat carrying visitors to the site of the proposed Shivaji Memorial statue in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai’s Marine Drive hit a rocky surface underwater and began to flood. The private, air-conditioned speedboat named MRM1 saw water ingress around 4.06 pm after its hull was damaged by a collision with a rock, while en route to the site of the proposed statue.
While 24 passengers on board were rescued, first by a passenger boat owned by Peasants & Workers Party legislator Jayant Patil and then by the Indian Coast Guard, one passenger, identified as Siddhesh Pawar (25) remained stuck in the sharply listing vessel. His body was later found in the vessel after it was towed to Sassoon Dock by the marine police arm of the Mumbai Police. Pawar is the nephew of an office-bearer of Shiv Sangram, a Maratha organisation that has been championing the cause of the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue for several years.
Coast Guard officials later said the boat was overcrowded. In addition, sources in the Public Works Department, which had organised the function at the site of the statue to mark commencement of work Wednesday, said MRM1 was not part of the official entourage for the function. The passengers on board were mostly members of Shiv Sangram, and a few government officials. Pawar’s uncle Vikrant Ambre (50) was unconscious while being rescued and was admitted to St George Hospital, said an official from the Mumbai Fire Brigade.
On its part the Coast Guard said, “It (ICG) shared information on the incident on receipt from state government. The information shared was on-time situation report. All updates were later circulated as and when received. We informed all safe only on receipt of information from the state government. Later on when dead body was recovered, this information was also shared,” the statement said.
The privately owned speedboat had joined three boats organised by the PWD to carry passengers, including journalists and officials, for a visit to the site where work on the Rs 2,500-crore memorial statue was to commence. The commencement event had to be cancelled after the mishap.
According to a government official who was on the speedboat, the collision occurred around 4.06 pm. Those on board immediately telephoned chairman of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial Project Implementation, Monitoring and Coordination Committee, Vinayak Mete, who is also the chairman of the Shiv Sangram party. A call was also made to Mumbai City Collector Shivaji Jondhale, informing him that the boat had collided with something, likely a rock.
“When I got a call, I immediately alerted the Disaster Cell of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. At the same time Chief Secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain alerted the State Disaster Control room about the emergency. We were in touch with the people on board. We also asked them to pump out water from the boat until the arrival of the rescue boat,” Jondhale told The Indian Express.