Watamu boat owners dismiss reports accident vessel was overloaded

The Watamu Association of Boat Owners and Operators (WABO) has refuted reports by the county government of Kilifi that the ill-fated boat involved in an accident on Saturday was overloaded.

Three people died in the accident and one is still missing.

The boat owners said they wondered why the county officials have not visited the area of the accident to verify the information and condole with the operators accusing them of instead going ahead to issue a statement with unverified information.

The boat owners and operators are also now demanding for rescue boats to be stationed in the area because of the busy season.

Journalists visited the BlueBay Beach area in Watamu which has over 30 glass bottom boats that do marine excursions in Watamu and found the Jabulani holiday glass boat which was towed to the shores badly damaged after the accident.

Videos taken by tourists who were in another boat when the accident occurred showed the Sea was rough and victims were struggling after the boat overturned.

At the beach normalcy has returned as there were over 100 tourists who were going for excursion in the marine park and said they felt safe.

Kassim Abdalla the owner of Jabulani Holiday boat said as per the Kenya Maritime Authority his boat has a capacity of 35 passengers including the captains.

Speaking at Blue Bay Beach he said on the fateful day his boat had 28 tourists both locals and foreigners together with two captains which brings the total number of those in the boat to 30.

“The sea was cool but when we went outside the reef there came strong winds which hit the boat and capsized, the reports that the boat was overloaded are false, as per records of KWS we cannot go to the sea without the tickets and the evidence of the tickets are that tourists were 28,” he said.

Abdalla said the boat left at 9.30AM in the morning and capsized at 11:00AM forcing him and others to go together with KWS to rescue the tourists adding that there was no county government boat that took part in the rescue only their community boats.

Hussein Ahmed the Treasurer of WABO said this is the first time they have witnessed such a tragedy in Watamu in the history of tourism and condoled with the families that lost their loved ones.

He however said they are saddened by the statement issued by the county government that the boat was overloaded.

Ahmed said the boat had 15 Non-residents, eight Kenyan citizens and five children which when added to the captains is 30 people that is below the capacity of the boat of 35 passengers.

“What happened is the boats carrying tourists were watching dolphins, and there was a total of seven boats, our colleague’s boat was hit by a strong wave and capsized, it’s the community boats which were there that begun the rescue mission and we got help from Ben Kite, KWS and Kenya red cross Society gave us two emergency vehicles,” he said.

He said the county has not visited but instead wrote letters fast which contained false information.

Ahmed called on the county to provide a rescue boat as there are over 30 boats that go for excursions daily and contribute heavily to the revenue.

“Its wrong that we do not have even one rescue boat here in Watamu, we urge them this is a request we are asking as your children to ensure the issue is addressed to have rescue boat,” he said.

Munira Mohamed the owner of Sea master glass boat said its sad that the tragedy occurred and the entire Watamu was mourning the deaths.

She however said all that would not have happened had there been a rescue boat in place.

“Please we need a rescue boat here to assist us we deal with so many tourists both locally and internationally its important for us all to have the boat here that is the most important thing for the county to do not just talking that they came and took part in the rescue operations yet there was no county response team here,” she said.

Fazal Omar the Chairman of WABO called on the county, national Government or even organization to get factual data from officials instead of just writing false reports.

“We oppose the report of the county it is false; it is wrong for the cunty to pick information for people who are not officials and go ahead to use it as the report, we also need the rescue boats we have been crying for it for many years,” he said.

Watamu Beach Operators Association Chairman Justin Kitsao while issuing condolences to the families of the deceased also called for cooperation between the county government and stakeholders so as to handle such issues amicably.

He said currently tourists are going on with their holidays smoothly and many were still going to the marine park because it was safe.

A statement from the office of the governor on Sunday revealed that the boat was overloaded.

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