By Iryn Namubiru
On Saturday morning, my friend Hope Mukasa kept calling to join them for boat cruise. Twice I declined. But when he insisted I gave in.
At KK beach, He introduced me to the people who were there. Actually at the same table was the Prince Wasajja, I saw many others that I knew, like OBs and Chuck Brian who died.
People were asking about the situation of the boat. The boat wasn’t coming, but booze was flowing. There was every kind of alcohol.
People were downing double Black Labels and other whiskeys and Cognac like it was their last day. And anything you asked for, you were served by the bottle, it was always a full bottle for one person. My host was not drinking.
I didn’t know who was financing it, but they told me it was a gentleman called Freeman
We took one of those small boats that take us to the big waiting boat.
On the big boat
On the big boat, the music was booming and it was full to capacity or even over booked. I secure a life jacket.
Many revelers never had a jacket, and many who had did not even fasten them.
People were in a happy mood and many already so drunk or tipsy. I got a seat in the middle of the boat where I could observe.
From the word go, the DJs kept on telling us to balance the boat.
I realized the boat was always bending on that one side where I was, and the DJ kept on telling us “balance the boat, please balance the boat,” but people got on that boat drunk already.
Early warning signs
Before that, Hope Mukasa had noticed that there was water flowing into the boat, and he showed me. “Do you see? There’s water coming into the boat. There’s water coming into the boat.” At the time it would come in and flow out.
Actually the boat was under repair as we were sailing. Light was coming on and off. I didn’t realize that it was the engine failing, that we are in the middle of the lake not moving I got a little scared when a wave hit the boat and a speaker flew off into the water.
There were other boats passing by that realized we had a problem (this I learnt after the incident) and they warned that we were about to capsize. They came closer and asked for those who wanted to leave the boat. Some 15 people left and others were too drunk to care.
It was known that this boat was always faulty and was down for over a month before we used it, had no license and the skippers were unqualified. They even jumped off the boat minutes before when they couldnt do anything anymore, and left us to die.
But when it was getting too dark, I got worried. I told Hope “you realize we are going?” I just held my bag and got ready.
No sooner had I finished the phrase than the boat capsized.
The last ‘hour’
I held my breath for about 40 seconds or a minute – thanks to my voice breath control techniques and training for music – and thanks to swimming lessons, I was peddling under water to get up. I have never dived, but I did what I saw my children do when they dive down to get up a peddle from the bottom of a pool. I peddled and my head got out of the water with my bag and phone, its torch making light.’
Around me in the dark, people were screaming, wailing and others repenting. I was only responding AMEN in my heart to other people’s loud prayers across the water. There was this voice in my head that kept telling me, ‘keep on, you are not dying, relax, swim, keep on, you will reach.’
I kept up my phone so we could be found. There was this lady who kept grabbing me on my side and pulling on my jacket. I didn’t say anything. I would just pull my jacket back on with the hand that had the bag. I had my head very well up out of the water and kept peddling to go forward.
And then the big waves started coming. That’s when I thought I was finished. I thought I was going to die, because they were somehow taking off my jacket. I felt my legs getting tired.
Eventually, a boat came. I saw it from a distance. I thought it was going to pass me by. I screamed “help! Help!” while waving my phone. They say it’s thanks to the torchlight that they saw us and I was rescued. The lady who was grabbing on my jacket had hers on, but it got stuck on something on the boat. She died before getting onto the rescue boat. I later realized she was the owner of the capsized boat with her husband. She had been right beside me.
Then he started saving other people. But so many people started holding onto the boat, and it seemed about to capsize. That’s when I let out a mother of all screams that the whole lake must have heard. The boat man said I was destabilizing him with the screams and I was told to shut up. I didn’t look to see where we were going, but we quickly reached the shore. We were 10. But only 9 of us survived.
I am so grateful to God and everybody who saved my life the day the boat went down, and I mourn those we lost. I pray that we learn from this and never allow such a thing to happen again.