3 held in connection with barge tragedy during Cyclone Tauktae
A manager, director, and technical superintendent of a shipping company were arrested on Saturday on charges of negligence in connection with the capsizing of accommodation barge P305 in the Arabian sea during Cyclone Tauktae on May 17.
Seventy-five people died in the tragedy while the Navy rescued 186 of the 261 people on board the barge.
The three—Prasad Ganpat Rane, Nitin Dinanath Singh, and Akhilesh Tiwari—have been arrested on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, deputy police commissioner (port zone) Ganesh Shinde said.
A local court remanded them into police custody until July 8.
There were around 23 crew members of the Papaa Shipping Company on the barge along with other employees.
Suhas Hemade, a senior inspector, said the three accused were aware of the serious warning issued by the concerned authority in connection with the cyclone. “But despite this, they neither called back their employees from the barge nor did they ask them to shift to a safer place,” he said.
Hemade said another director of the company, Shilpa Kanojiya, is also accused in the case but she has not been arrested yet.
The case was initially registered in the matter on May 21 against the master of the barge, Rakesh Ballav. It was filed on the basis of the statement of Mistafizur Rahman Hussain Shaikh, who was part of the maintenance crew of the barge.
Shaikh accused Ballav of overlooking the weather alerts and of failing to take appropriate care despite knowing that the lapse could result in the loss of lives.
As per the police complaint in the case, the barge was anchored near an unmanned platform in Heera oil fields. At about 11.00 pm on May 16, wind speed started increasing. An hour later, the wind speed almost doubled. At about 2 am, two of the eight anchor cables of the barge gave way and the captain send a distress message to a tugboat, which was supposed to be in the vicinity. The boat was about 16 nautical miles away and could not move in the stormy weather.
Police have recorded statements of over 100 survivors rescued by the Navy and the Coast Guard from the barge.
Afcons Infrastructure, which lead the consortium that had chartered the barge along with its marine crew, has said that the master of P305 chose to stay in the sea, near the platform where it was working, despite receiving instructions for returning to Mumbai harbour.