19 February 2018

Zambia: Commandos Join Search for Drowned Serenje Children

Photo: Pixabay
(File photo).

A team of 15 marine commandos from Ndola has been deployed to search for the bodies of six children who drowned during a boat cruise at a farm dam in Serenje district in Central Province.

And parents of drowned children have expressed anger at the failure by police to arrest the suspect despite evidence suggesting there was neglegency by the boat operator.

The accident happened on Friday around 15:00 hours at Kachipapa Farm 25 kilometres from Serenje town when the six-capacity boat was carrying 12 children from Poosa Primary School for a boat cruise.

The search yesterday entered day three after efforts by the fire brigade in Serenje and Kabwe could not yield positive results before the office of the Vice President sanctioned the re-enforcement by the commandos.

Provincial Minister Sydney Mushanga, Permanent Secretary Chanda Kabwe and regional police chief Joel Njase were on the banks of the dam yesterday to witness the search and console the families.

Scores of residents who have been waiting around the dam were left frustrated by 16:00 yesterday when the search was postponed to today with Mr Mushanga assuring that the search would be intensified today.

Mr Mushanga said President Edgar Lungu had sent his message of condolences and was mourning with the bereaved families.

"This is not your funeral alone, that's why we have all government officials in here so that we can mourn because we are treating this as a funeral even if we have not found the bodies.

"We have been assured by the commandos that the bodies will be found, although the challenge is that the base of the dam is full of Reeds and trees which has hampered the search," he said.

Mr Mushanga also announced the closure of Poosa Primary School until the bodies of the children who were also pupils at the school were found.

The Minister also announced that the Government had provided some rations to the bereaved families as well as purchased coffins to ensure that the bodies were buried as soon as they were retrieved from the dam.

The boat cruise was part of the birthday celebrations for Roy Bannett, who would have turned 61 on Saturday but died in a helicopter crush in the United States last month.

His son Charles invited his friend Lew Steyn, 28, from South Africa who decided to test the small boat with kids before it capsized after it failed to pull.

Regina Mambwe who lost nine year-old-daughter demanded for justice for the loss her child saying she would want huge compensation.

"My child would probably have a teacher and she could have helped me but now am in pain because of the carelessness of someone, I need compensation for this loss," he said.

Bupe Namukonde who lost a nine year old daughter Bethel Banda in the accident called on everyone involved to pray so that the bodies of the children could be found and retrieved.

Another parent Pauline Chibuye who lost her 13 year old son Gershom said she was in shock over the loss of her son and wanted justice to prevail.


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