A boat mishap on Saturday at a in Ekeremor, Bayelsa State, claimed the lives of no less than four persons, while the timely intervention of locals and passing boats helped save the lives of other passengers on the boat, including former Deputy Governor Peremobowei Ebebi of Bayelsa State.
Most of the dead victims and the survivors, it was gathered, had been about departing the Ekeremor town jetty to return to their various bases at the conclusion of the ward congresses of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the town, when the incident occurred at that 5:00pm that fateful day.
The victims were not wearing life vests when the incident occurred, according to eyewitness accounts.
Blaming the incident on overloading, a source said that this forced the boat to list, and subsequently capsize.
He said: “Most of the dead victims were trapped in the enclosed compartment of the boat when it turned upside down. Immediately the incident happened, the villagers who were at the jetty dived into the water in search of Ebebi.
“Eventually when they lifted him, he had taken in so much water and was unconscious. He was later revived. But before help could come the way of other victims, they had drowned.”
While the exact number of passengers aboard the boat when she capsized could not readily be confirmed to ascertain if there persons still missing in the water, it was, however, gathered that among the retrieved corpses was that of a Department of State Security (DSS) personnel attached to the office of the Bayelsa State Project Monitoring Department located along the Imgbi Road in the state capital, Yenagoa.
It was learnt that the male security operative had accompanied the head of the Bayelsa State Project Monitoring Department, Mr. Ball Oyarede, to Ekeremor Local Government Area of the state for the just-concluded ward congresses of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
An aspirant for a seat in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Oyarede, the Special Adviser to Governor Seriake Dickson on Special Duties is a former Commissioner for Land and Housing and a former Bayelsa State Representative, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
It was gathered that, on the return journey from the ward congress, the boat the DSS personnel and Ebebi boarded at the Ekeremor town jetty had capsized before sailing out, depositing the occupants in the water.
A scramble to rescue Ebebi, who was seen as a very important person (VIP) among the lot, caused the death of the DSS personnel and three other passengers, according to sources.
It was learnt that local divers promptly facilitated the recovery of the deceased persons, whose corpses were conveyed to the state capital on Saturday.
A crane had been deployed in extracting the capsized boat from the water.