Less than a month before the Sep30 tragedy, U2 and I have been on a trip there - an extended Onam vacation and much more... A few things ( which have probably been now reported in the media) was glaring during the boat trip ...
1) Right from the ticket queue, there is no guidance whatsoever of how things work ( for example you realize that one person can only take max 2 tickets, only when you reach the end of the queue ) , which boat to board, choice of upper deck/lower deck ( or may be those choices are already sold out for "black" or to those with influence)
2) Once you are in the boat too, there is nobody controlling the seating arrangement - I don't think our ticket was ever checked once in the boat, or to see if proper people are seated in the proper deck (So even if more than allotted people stay in upper deck, "nobody" knows .
3) They supposedly issue a stipulated number of tickets for each boat.. but except one time when our boat appeared overcrowded and seatless, nobody asked people to board the boats which they are supposed to ( which if you see closely on the ticket is printed somewhere on the ticket, but you don't know that its the name of the boat until you see the boat)
4) There were no instructions ( like don't crowd on one side), or what to do in case of a problem etc etc.... In fact an old man who was late to board the boat did not get a seat, and so he was seated in the driver's cabin - and alas, the fellow was non-stop lecturing about kerala politics (in Malayalam of course) ALL-THROUGH the journey to the drivers assistant and the latter listening most of the time, occasionally replying or giving him the next topic to talk about
5) And for lifejackets - i was curious to see if there were any - and they were, a few of them, stacked up nicely and tied up in the drivers cabinet...
The travellers were just focused on the joy of the ride and no hardly ever complained. At one point when at the end of the trip, there were elephants on one side ( haaaa... some "wild life" after such a long wait), people did crowd to one side and our boat "Vanajyotsna" did tilt to one side a bit , but I kind of said aloud semi-jokingly ( the other half with the intention that people notice) that the boat is tilted to one side... - ours did not reach a danger level tilt at any point.
Among the theories of the boat collapse, all ultimately lead to neglect of authorities as root cause
If it were overcrowding on one side, couldn't have been avoided by not allowing more-than-capacity and instructing people not to do that ? Also "boat design not suited for all crowding on side" When it says "60 people capacity", shouldn't it be sand-bag tested with all possibilities including this one-side possibility ? And nothing more to say about the possibility of mistake by the inexperienced driver.
I leave this post with some picture of the boat in the accident - Jalakanyaka - taken by chance while on Vanajyotsna .
The pic above shows the case elephants on one side, and people moving towards that side - and you can see the boat tilted a bit. Whether it is within limits or not, I am not an expert to comment. Notice also one fellow hanging out of the boat, quite clear that there is nobody to control
And here is another one... ( click pics to enlarge)