15 die as boat birthday party turns fatal

Source: Agencies  |   2011-5-22  |     NEWSPAPER EDITION

The story appears on Page A4
May 22, 2011

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A LITTLE boy's birthday party went tragically wrong when a double-decker tour boat capsized during a storm in southern Vietnam, killing 15 people - including the three-year-old being honored and four other children, officials said yesterday.

Divers recovered the bodies, including two Chinese adults, from the Saigon River yesterday afternoon, but one passenger was missing, said Trieu Van Giau, head of Binh Duong provincial waterway police.

The incident remains under investigation, but bad weather is being blamed.

Several people managed to swim to safety following Friday evening's incident, which occurred while the restaurant-style boat was cruising the river during heavy rains and violent winds, said Le Van Hieu, chief of Binh Nham village in Binh Duong Province, 30 kilometers northwest of Ho Chi Minh City.

"It's horrible to see the birthday party for that three-year-old boy turn into a tragedy," he said.

The boat was about 100 meters away from the terminal when it went down around 7pm, Hieu added.

According to state-run media, a Vietnamese businessman had thrown the birthday party. The reports said the father managed to survive, but that nine family members - including his wife, son and six-year-old daughter - did not make it to shore.

One survivor was quoted as saying he was having beer with friends when the boat started to sink.

He said it flooded with water so fast that he wasn't able to reach his wife and son on the other side of the deck.

Others reported that all of the windows had been closed to keep the rain out, which may have hindered passengers' escape.

Hundreds of soldiers and police were mobilized for the search and rescue operation.

They located the sunken boat and were expected to hoist it from the water using a crane, Hieu said, adding that strong currents initially prevented divers from reaching the vessel.

The boat, which can carry up to 75 people, is a popular choice for parties. It is owned by the Din Ky Green Tourist Company in Binh Duong.

The bodies of the two Chinese victims, a man and a woman, have been transferred to Cho Ray hospital in Ho Chi Minh City where they will be handed over to the Chinese Embassy.

In February, Vietnam experienced its worst foreign tour boat accident when 11 vacationers from nine countries, along with their Vietnamese tour guide, drowned when the overnight boat they were sleeping in sank in northern Ha Long Bay, one of the country's must-see sites.

Earlier this month, another tour junk went down in the bay while serving 28 French tourists. No one was injured.


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