The Lagos State Government on Thursday commiserated with families of six pupils, who lost their lives when a fibre boat conveying them to school was hit by a motorised boat within the Ebute Ojo waterways in the Ojo Local Government Area on Wednesday.
The pupils died as a result of drowning.
Describing the incident as unfortunate, the Managing Director of the Lagos State Waterways Authority, Mr. Yinka Marinho, said the incident occurred despite government’s increasing efforts to make the waterways safe for residents.
Marinho, who was joined at a press briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, by the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu; the Executive Secretary, Ojo Local Government, Mr. Lawal Adewale; the General Manager, Lagos State Safety Commission, Mrs. Dominga Odebunmi; and the Chief Press Secretary to the state Governor, Mr. Habib Aruna, said 12 children and an adult were on board the boat when the incident occurred.
Marinho explained that a motorised speed boat developed fault mid-water and attempted to fix the problem while the boat was still in motion, thereby having a head on collision with the fibre boat conveying the pupils.
“We got the distress call by 8.30am that an incident had occurred. We immediately sent our patrol boat to the area. When we got there, we immediately tried to rescue those who were involved with the help of the local fishermen. We could rescue eight of the passengers, but this morning, the six, who were missing were found. Unfortunately, none survived”, he said.
The LSWA boss, however, said the captain of the speed boat had been arrested and would be prosecuted accordingly.
He regretted that despite the provision of life jackets to boat operators in the Ebute Ojo area, where the incident occurred, none of the passengers on board wore the jackets.
“As part of the state’s Corporate Social Responsibility since 2012, we have distributed over 3,500 life jackets from Badagry to Epe area. That particular area that we had the incident as of May 2014, we distributed 360 life jackets.
“All these life jackets we distributed were done to forestall these incidences. We don’t understand why people fail to wear life jackets, but we would continue to strive to ensure that the safety of the waterways is paramount”, Marinho added.
He said plans were underway to distribute another 2,400 life jackets within the next few months, calling on the boat operators to insist on passengers wearing life jackets if they must board their boats.
Osanyintolu, on his part, said the swift response of the state emergency response team ensured that eight persons were rescued alive.
“Our response was swift, prompt and effective. Immediately we were informed, we activated our emergency response plan and with that, we were able to rescue nine people, eight children and the driver of the canoe”, he said.
Osanyintolu said five of those rescued were taken to Igando General Hospital, where they were adequately attended to free of charge.