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Shitalakkhya launch capsize: 5 in remand, 9 sent to jail

  • Published at 09:50 pm April 9th, 2021
Police with the accused men in the Shitalakkhya launch capsize
Police with the accused men in the Shitalakkhya launch capsize case on Friday, April 9, 2021 Dhaka Tribune

Earlier on Sunday, the passenger vessel sank after colliding with the accused cargo ship leaving at least 34 people dead

A court has granted two-day remand to five people including the accused Cargo ship driver and ordered to send the remaining nine accused to jail.

The order was passed in the court of Senior Judicial Magistrate Ahmmed Humayun Kabir in the presence of the accused around 4:30pm on Friday.

Earlier in the day, Narayanganj Naval police sent the five accused, including cargo driver, master and crew member, to the court for five days remand.

Narayanganj Court police Inspector Asaduzzaman confirmed the matter to the Dhaka Tribune.

However, the defendant's lawyer advocate Khokon Saha did not comment in this regard.

The remanded accused are Cargo ship’s master Ohiduzzaman, 50, of Belabia village under Lohagara police station of Honrail district, cargo ship’s driver (in-charge) Majnu Mollah, 38, of Rajpat village of Kashiana thana of Gopalganj, cargo’s crew members Md Anwar Mollick, 40, of Belabona village of Faridpur, Hridoy Hawlader, 20, of Kamarhaola village of Patuakhali Galachipa thana, Farhan Mollah, 27, of Narail’s Lohagarh Belchia village.

According to court sources, on April 4, a passenger launch named ML Sabit Al Hasan was hit from behind by the cargo ship while overtaking near the 3rd Shitalakshya Bridge (China Bridge) under construction at Kolaghat area under Bandar police station.

Thirty-four people including women and children were killed in the accident.

During preliminary interrogation cargo ship’s master Ohiduzzaman, Majnu Mollah, cargo’s crew members Md Anwar Mollick , Hridoy Hawlader and Farhan Mollah confessed to the crime.

Earlier on Tuesday night, Narayanganj BIWTA acting deputy director Babu Lal Vaidya filed a case accusing unknown persons of criminal murder, common and serious injuries, damage and destruction of a ship by recklessly hitting a passenger launch.

Later on Thursday evening, the seized cargo boat was brought to Narayanganj Bandarghat area and the accused were handed over to the Narayanganj Naval police station.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Coast Guard detained the accused cargo ship along with its driver while it was anchored in Gazaria on the Meghna River.

Other than the remanded five accused, the rest of the nine accused are – crew members Md Abdullah Sheikh, 30, Rakibul Islam, of Ariara village, Md Alim Sheikh, 18, Noor Islam, 35, Nazmul Mollah, 30, of Narail, Md Sagor, 19, of Belachia village, Sakib Sarder, 18, of Khulna, Md Afsar, 18, of Shariyatpur, cargo’s chef Abul Bashar Sheikh, 38, of Bashgram area of Narail.

According to the case sources, the cargo named 'MVSKL-3' left Narsingdi Ghorashal area for Munshiganj on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, in the evening, when the cargo reached the Shitalakkhya river in Syedpur Coal Ghat area, it hit the passenger launch named ML Sabit Al Hasan.

Also Read - Shitalakkhya launch capsize: Errant cargo vessel detained in Munshiganj

Meanwhile, soon after the hit and run, the cargo boat escaped from Shitalakkhya to Dhaleshwari and fled to Meghna river. The cargo had been fleeing for so long by changing its colours.

About 5 days into the incident, the Coast Guard detained the cargo ship along with 14 staff while it was anchored at Gazaria Meghnadi in Munshiganj on Thursday afternoon.

Bangladesh Coast Guard Headquarters Media Wing Lt Commander Amirul said the Coast Guard police were conducting raids as part of regular raids. Tipped off, they found out the cargo dropped its anchor in the Gazaria area. 

Later, they reached the spot at around 2pm and detained the cargo boat along with its staff. At the time they could not show any documents of the cargo, he added.

He also said as the cargo was repainted several times, it was not possible to say whether this cargo is SKL-3 or not.

According to the interrogation statement, the cargo was going from Narsingdi Ghorashal to Munshiganj without the permission to cross the river, on the instructions of a person.

Yunus Munshi, senior inspector of River Sadar police station and investigating officer of the case, told Dhaka Tribune: “Since we are investigating the case, the accused are in our custody. Since no documents were found on the cargo ship, it is not yet known who owns the boat. Detainees claim they do not have any documents.”

However, he said the name and registration number written on the cargo that hit the sunken launch matched the seized cargo.

Meanwhile, when police spoke to cargo master Obaidullah at the Naval police station, he claimed that the incident took place when the launch overtook them.

The launch was moving from the front even after he blew the horn more than once. At one stage, the launch overtook the cargo and the launch moved in front of the cargo. Later it was pressed down, Obaidullah added.

He also said that the cargo boat had just been unloaded from the dockyard. Registration has been completed but permission to navigate the river has not been obtained.

However, Obaidullah did not want to say why the color of the cargo was changed and under whose directive.

A senior naval police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it had already been confirmed that the cargo had no surveyor (permission) to navigate the waterway. This information was extracted from detainees and their papers showed the same.

Narayanganj Naval police Superintendent Meena Mahmuda told the Dhaka Tribune that no details could be released at this time. The owner of the cargo ship has not been identified. The detainees are being interrogated.

However, Manjur Ali, the clerk of the sunken launch, who was already involved in the accident, claimed that the cargo belonged to SK Logistics, an organization owned by Sheikh Tonmoy, an MP from Bagerhat-2 constituency. 

Manjur complained that police did not file a case despite telling the details first to the BIWTA and later to the police.

Meanwhile, in a joint public hearing of the two committees of the Ministry of Shipping and the district administration from 11am to 2pm on Thursday, the Ministry of Shipping recorded the testimonies of 26 people and 28 people of the district administration.

A total of four investigation committees have been formed including the district administration, BIWTA, the Ministry of Shipping and the Department of Shipping.