MV Kabalega Crewman narrates ordeal
Publish Date: May 09, 2005
Newvision Archive
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By Vision Reporters
GEORGE Saka, 27, was one of the 16-man crew and eight officers aboard the ill-fated ferry, MV Kabalega.

Saka, a cook who has worked at the pier for nine years and pastor at Church of God Kazo, recounted what happened on the fateful day.

“It was 3:00am. We were coming from Mwanza and heading to Kampala (Luzira - Port Bell pier). When we were just reaching the first island after Buziba Island. We met Pamba moving to Mwanza. We successfully passed it.

After one and half hours, we met Kaawa. The problem seems to have come from the navigators. Our navigator told him that, ‘when crossing (over-taking) let’s use the green light.’ The one of Kaawa said, ‘Let me look for the green light.’

When crossing, depending on the port side, we use either a green or red light. When crossing, the navigator asks the other; ‘which side are you on?’.
When we were about to go-by, it (Kaawa) knocked Kabalega’s front part. It broke the coupling and pushed the wagons from the ferry.

The impact opened the front of the ferry like a fish mouth and also affected the water tanks underneath. The tanks balance the vessel by offering buoyancy. When the ferry is fully loaded, the tanks are empty and vice-versa.
So, in this accident, tank No. 8 was hit, yet we were cruising at a high speed. Because of the damage, water entered the tank and speedily entered tank 9.

When the front part of the ferry nose-dived, water made its way into the generator and the ferry became lopsided. The (train) wagons then capsized.

The person on watch was an acting officer and I’m told he is not supposed to cross (signal) the ferry.

Communication was made to MV Pamba to halt its journey to Mwanza and it saved us before the ferry sank. It took one and a half hours for Pamba to return, anchor beside Kabalega and we jumped over. It brought us back to Luzira.

I thank God for saving me from the accident. Even now, I cannot believe I am alive. He is merciful. It’s unbelievable! I know very little about swimming because we were not trained. You know God has a plan for everyone.

Actually I am heading to Church of God in Kazo where I am a pastor for prayers. The congregation is waiting to see their pastor who survived.”

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