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Boat mishap: Rivers community mourns man, 36, who died after rescuing 13 passengers

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Tony John, Port Harcourt

The entire Bakana community in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State, is in grief. The natives are still mourning the death of one of their illustrious sons, who, recently, exhibited an extraordinary valour after a passenger boat capsized.

It was a pathetic story of a father of two, Mr. Joe Blankson. He was involved in a boat capsize, where he rescued 13 fellow passengers. At the end, he lost his life, leaving behind his wife and two children (a boy and girl). That was the lot of Bakana community last Saturday, July 28.
READ ALSO: 6 drown in Rivers boat mishap

Saturday Sun gathered from natives that 36-year-old Blankson, in his lifetime, had deep concern for people around him. That trait, probably, pushed him to sacrifice his life at the expense of others, not taking into cognizance that he did not wear life jacket during the trip. Not even the fact that he had a young family, who would suffer devastation, hardship and emotional trauma, at his demise, deterred him.

According to a source, who was simply identified as Green, Blankson, despite not wearing a life jacket, went on searching and saving other victims and after rescuing the 13th person, still went for the 14th person, but, could not make it.

It was learnt that, Blankson had good knowledge of sea diving , having grown up in the riverine area. Until his death, he was a contractor with some oil and gas companies in Trans-Amadi area of Port Harcourt, where he supplied diesel.

On that fateful day, the boat, with 25 passengers onboard, reportedly left Abonnema Wharf for Bakana. There was downpour that lasted several hours, across the state. The rainfall, sources said, increased the water level with debris floating on the sea.
READ ALSO: Kebbi: Death trap for boat travellers

One of the survivors, who did not want his name mentioned in print said, the boat driver was on high speed at a bend in Iboroma, when the accident occurred.

It was also gathered that the waterways were very dirty to a level that any object could capsize a boat, if it finds its way into the propeller.

Spokesman of the State Police Command, Nnamdi Omoni, confirmed the incident, saying Blankson died after rescuing 13 passengers.

The boat accident which happened at about 2.45pm on Saturday, left six persons drowned, 19 others rescued. The corpse of one of the victims had been recovered, while others were still missing, as at the time of filing the report.

Following the incident, Chairman of Degema Local Government Council, Dr. Tony Philmoore, has vowed to make water transport safer and pleasurable in the area. He said this during a meeting with stakeholders including marine transport owners and drivers associations operating in the area at Abonnema Wharf.

The council boss promised to organize quarterly health, safety, security and environment (HSES) training for marine drivers in Degema Local Government Area. He also promised to provide personal protective equipment for both drivers and passengers plying the waterways, especially those on the Bakana, Oguruawo, Bille, Tombia and Cawthorne Channel routes, for the safety and wellbeing of the passengers, as well as the drivers.

He warned against flouting safety rules and the use of alcohol and hard drugs by boat drivers and promised to establish a health, security and safety task force to regulate and prosecute erring drivers.
READ ALSO: Two drown in Kebbi boat mishap

Responding, the boat drivers thanked the chairman for the meeting and hearing from them. They debunked the report that nine persons were missing in the unfortunate incident adding that the corpse of the only person who died whose body had since been recovered. They challenged anyone, who says otherwise, to present proof of missing passengers on the ill-fated boat, as all families that had loved ones on the boat, had since been reunited with them, except the unfortunate one that drowned.

On his part, Chairman of the Boat Drivers Union, Okorite Isaac, appealed to the relevant authorities to clean debris and refuse from the river, as they constitute safety hazards and endanger lives of travellers

Speaking, Chairman of Abonnema Wharf Community, Taribo Benson, advised boat drivers against overloading their boats for pecuniary reasons. He enjoined them to always use manifest to properly document passengers to avoid future controversies as is being experienced.

Meanwhile, the lawmaker representing Degema Constituency in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Farah Dagogo, has condoled with the families of those who lost loved ones in the ill-fated boat mishap in Bakana community.


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