The Andhra Pradesh police on Thursday arrested the driver and owner of the boat that capsized in the Godavari river in Polavaram mandal last week.
The incident occurred near Manturu in East Godavari district around 5 pm. There were about 50 people on the boat when it capsized and 10 of them including two women swam to safety. The boat, which sailed from Kondamodalu, was on its way to Rajamahendravaram.
Speaking to reporters, Polavaram DSP ATV Ravi Kumar said that around one hour into the journey, the passengers asked the driver and owner of the boat to head towards land, as heavy rain and fast winds were making it difficult to manoeuvre the vehicle.
However, the duo did not pay heed to the passengers' plea, which led to the boat tipping over.
Teams from the Navy, state disaster management department and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel were deployed and engaged in the rescue operations.
They also mobilised heavy cranes near the shores to retrieve the launch that capsized.
The police said that 15 bodies were fished out from the water on the day of the accident and four more were fished out the next day, taking the final death toll to 19. It was also pointed out that passengers were not given life jackets.
The duo were produced in front of a court and sent to judicial remand.
The incident came to light shortly after another mishap in which a boat with over 100 tourists caught on fire in the Godavari river in the same district on May 11. Fortunately, passengers managed to escape as the driver wheeled the boat to the shore and they were able to jump off the boat.
With a number of boat mishaps coming to light recently in Andhra Pradesh, Chief Secretary of State, Dinesh Kumar, is considering forming an inland water transport regulatory authority which will regulate all forms of water transportation in all water bodies of the stateās jurisdiction.
The board is to be constituted chiefly with officials of the Andhra Pradesh Department of Ports, Water Resources and PanchayatI Raj Department and the police, along with authorities of other departments.
The Chief Secretary also asked officials to ensure that boats were taking safety measures including making life jackets available to all. The boats must also display all documents, licenses, registration details and fitness certificates.