Sayon Mukherjee (above) at Nagar Mal Modi Seva Sadan Hospital in Ranchi on Sunday; city SP Manoj Ratan Chothe (below left) inspects the boat after the accident in Ranchi Lake; and (below right) tourism secretary Sajal Chakraborty enjoys a boat ride minutes before the mishap. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Dec. 15: A three-year-old girl and two others drowned when an overloaded motorboat, part of a just-launched joyride fleet initiated jointly by Ranchi Municipal Corporation and a private firm, capsized in Bada Talab this afternoon, exposing how contempt for basic safety norms can prove fatal.
Sana Mukherjee (3), Sagarmoy Banerjee (28) and Manan (35) were the three casualties among the 17 passengers on the boat that toppled in the lake around 1.30pm. Tourism secretary Sajal Chakraborty, who was also on the boat, survived with minor injuries.
Two of the victims, Sana and Sagarmoy, were related to the proprietors of Chatterjee International, a family-owned private firm that just started the venture. The third, Mannan, was identified as a salesman and Pahari Tola resident, who had come to spend a leisurely Sunday with his family.
Chatterjee International — run by Gautam Chatterjee, who had touted the joyride as a grand revival for the perpetually dirty Bada Talab — flouted every rule in the book on the very day of the debut.
The motorboat, with a 10-member capacity, was crammed with 17 persons, seven of them being children.
Apart from Chakraborty, Manan, his wife Saira and five children Saimi, Afreen, Avam, Ayan and Ameen, the nine others were related to the Chatterjee family. They included the ill-fated Sana, her brother Sayon and mother Navomita; unlucky Sagarmoy and his wife Puja, who is alive but critical; relatives Manjushree Banerjee, Shilpi Chatterjee, Taposhree Chatterjee and Tanu Banerjee.
Most people were eager to share boat space with the lone VIP on the occasion, tourism secretary Chakraborty. Also, neither the organisers nor parents appeared to believe that children had weight, which explains the presence of as many as seven minors on the boat.
Next, not a single passenger on the boat was wearing a life jacket, as is the norm. There were hardly two or three vests on the boat. Other safety gear such as bailers, life rafts and so on was unheard of.
No trained diver was present nearby. Spotting the boat capsize, a couple of local fishermen jumped into the lake for rescue. District administration divers fished Manan out around 4pm.
Seva Sadan doctors declared Sana and Manan dead. Sagarmoy was declared dead at Santevita Hospital on HB Road. Manan’s widow Saira is fighting for her life at Seva Sadan ICU, but their five children, aged between four and 13, are safe.
Late night reports said Puja was in coma at Orchid Hospital.
Tourism secretary Chakraborty suffered mild injuries.
Mob fury started as soon as news spread, though policemen in large numbers swooped on the spot.
“First, district administration took over two hours to fish out Manan. Had there been proper security, all three lives could have been saved,” rued a woman relative of Manan.
Chief minister Hemant Soren announced Rs 2 lakh each as compensation. Tourism secretary Sajal Chakraborty also called a news meet in the evening but he was more eager to dispel notions that he was not steering the motorboat. “I wasn’t driving at all but it appeared like I was because the steering wheel was in the middle of the driver and me,” he said. “There were life jackets but not too many and people went easy on it. The boat was a bit overloaded. I feel bad because I should have objected to it in the first place,” he added.
Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey said the boat was overcrowded.
Chanchal Chatterjee, elder brother of Gautam Chatterjee, said: “No one anticipated the tragedy. It’s a sad incident and we have lost members from our family.”