In the ongoing investigation into the tragic boat capsize incident in Gujarat, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has made another arrest. Gopal Shah, a Town Development Officer (TDO) of the corporation and partner of Kotia Projects Company, was apprehended from Chhattisgarh earlier today.
This follows the arrest of Bineet Kotia, the contractor of Kotia Projects, on January 23, 2024. With the latest arrest, the total number of accused now stands at eight.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Panna Momaya stated, “Bineet Kotia is the main force behind the Kotia project. He was apprehended as soon as he entered Vadodara, after evading capture in various locations outside Gujarat. We are also making efforts to seize the properties of the other accused who are still at large.” The main contractor, Paresh Shah, and his sub-contractor, Nilesh Jain, remain absconding.
The boat capsize incident, which claimed the lives of 14 people, including 12 children, and left several injured, has led to an FIR being filed against 19 individuals. Preliminary investigations suggest that the boat was overloaded, carrying 27 passengers despite a seating capacity of only 14. The FIR further alleges that passengers were not provided with life jackets or briefed on safety guidelines.
The victims were part of a group of 80, comprising students and teachers from New Sunrise School in Waghodia, who were on a school picnic on January 18. The deceased children, seven girls and five boys, ranged in age from 8 to 13. Two teachers, Falguniben Manishbhai Patel (52) and Chhayaben Hitendrabhai Surti (56), were also among the casualties.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel visited the injured victims at a hospital in Vadodara on Thursday evening. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences for the lives lost in the incident and announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh each from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the next of kin of the victims and ₹50,000 each for the injured. The Gujarat government also announced a compensation of ₹4 lakh each for the next of kin of the victims and ₹50,000 each for the injured.
President Droupadi Murmu expressed her sorrow over the incident, stating, “The news of the death of children and teachers in a boat accident in Vadodara, Gujarat is extremely sad. I express my deepest condolences to the bereaved family members and wish for the success of the rescue operation.”