The Vijayawada police swung into action and arrested seven people on Wednesday, three days after the boat accident at the Pavitra Sangamam killed 21 tourists.
A crew member and an APTDC employee were also part of the group that was arrested, and booked under Section 304(II) of the IPC, which deals with culpable homicide.
The arrested accused were identified Kondala Rao, Neelam Seshagiri Rao, Manoj Kumar, Vijaya Saradhi, boat crew member Karri Bhairava and APTDC boat driver Gedela Srinu, whose wife Lakshmi was also held.
Addressing mediapersons, Vijayawada Police Commissioner Gautham Sawang said that the main accused Kondala Rao floated a boating company with Gedela Srinu's help and entered into an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC).
Without taking permission from the Water Resources Department of the state, they invested Rs 74.5 lakh out of the Rs 1.5 crore that they were aiming for, and began operating the boat.
The police also said that the boat was purchased in Visakhapatnam, retrofitted in Kakinada and was made ready to sail at the Punnami Ghat.
â€śThe boat has permission to ply passengers only between the Punnami Ghat and Venkatayapalem village but the accused started operating it to other points. Even after being opposed by an APTDC staff, Seshagiri Rao and Vijaya Saradhi managed to make a trial run in the morning and started its maiden trip...It capsized due to ripples at the confluence point and due to the inexperienced boat driver, who did not even know how to navigate the boat and the route,â€ť Sawang was quoted as saying.
â€śCriminal action will be taken against the staff involved. We will investigate their roles and find if it was negligence or collusion with the firm owners," he added.
Sawang also said that the police had taken note of the video doing the rounds, which showed an APTDC staff warning the boat, not to sail out on to the river.
Following the accident, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the families of the dead.
Terming the incident as unfortunate, the Chief Minister said a committee comprising of IAS and IPS officers had been formed to prevent such incidents in future.
Except for three, all the victims were from Ongole town of Prakasam district, including 32 members of the Ongole Walkers' Club.