By Omar Bah
Three students from Yundum Barracks Upper Basic school, who were on an excursion in Jangjangbureh, have been confirmed dead after the navy boat transporting them capsized, the Army deputy spokesperson Captain Malick Sanyang, confirmed to The Standard yesterday.
According to impeccable sources, a total of 136 students from the school were touring the slave and other historic relics in Jangjangbureh. At some point in their excursion, they boarded a Navy boat from the Laminkoto Navy station heading to Jangjangbureh. The boat then capsized resulting in the drowning of Sanna Kijera, Musa B Ceesay and Abubacarr Jaiteh.
“I can confirm that the incident happened on Saturday at around 10am. When the students arrived at Laminkoto – Jangjangbureh crossing point, they found that the ferry was not in service. So as usual and consistent with the Navy’s activities and mandate along all the major crossing points on River Gambia, the students were ferried on a Navy boat in groups of ten but unfortunately during one of the trips, the boat capsized resulting in the drowning of 3 students,” Cpt. Sanyang said.
He further disclosed that when the army command received the information about the incident, they immediately contacted the Farafenni military barracks for reinforcement, and a rescue operation was mounted which saved 7 out of the 10 students.
“The rescue continued until around 9pm on Saturday during which time they recovered two bodies [Musa B Ceesay, (Grade 7) and Abubacarr Jaiteh, (Grade 8]. A third body, believed to be that of Sanna Kejira, was recovered yesterday morning,” he said.
Cpt Sanyang said the Navy officer, who was transporting the students and all the personnel either involved or close to the scene, are helping army in their investigations.
“The military will come up with a report immediately after the investigations,” he said.
He said the military’s high command is very concerned about what happened.
According to eyewitnesses, some of the students did wear life-jackets but the Navy boat had a hole thus water was penetrating.
But Cpt Sanyang denied that account: “They were all wearing life-jackets. But you know when certain incidents are meant to happen, they just happen because not every person that wears a life jacket is a good swimmer. It is not unusual for the Navy to transport people during emergencies like this when there are no ferries and all those many missions have been completed with great success. But naturally, accidents overshadow previous successful achievements. This incident really touched the army because the victims were people very close to our hearts and of course, when things are destined to happen, they will happen no matter what.”
Asked whether all the students involved were children of military officers, Cpt Sanyang said: “One of the victims was a son to one of our warrant officers. But the school is opened to surrounding villages around the barracks.”