Kampala. Brian Masole, 23, a third year student of Mass Communication at Kampala International University (KIU), has spoken out on how he saved singer Iryn Namubiru and 30 other revellers.
While speaking to Saturday Monitor yesterday, Masole says he did not recognise that Namubiru was among close to 40 people he retrieved from Lake Victoria water when their ill-fated boat capsized on Saturday evening killing 32 revellers.
Masole says he learnt that the singer was among the people he had saved when a man, who identified himself as a journalist, called the singer’s phone inquiring on whether she was safe.
“I told the person that if Iryn [Namubiru] was the one holding the phone, then she was safe because I had saved her. But if she had given it to another person, then I was not sure whether she was safe,” Masole says.
At the time, the phone was in Masole’s boat which he had navigated to Luzira Landing Site where its owner was waiting for it.
Masole and other 10 KIU students had hired the boat for the whole day to make merry at Mutima and Mutola beaches, both in Mukono District.
Masole says they bypassed the ill-fated boat at 3:30pm at Namasulu Island between Ggaba Beach and later in Luzira heading to Ggaba Beach where it picked revellers.
“By the time we bypassed the boat, the weather had changed and propellers of our boat were running in space because of water waves.
I immediately changed the sitting arrangement of my team to ensure we balanced the boat so that propellers could run from inside the water to avoid heating of the engine and catching fire,” Masole explains.
When Masole and his team arrived at Mutima Beach at 4:05pm, they took pictures, recorded videos with a camera, phones, played volleyball and football. At 5:12pm, they embarked on a journey to Mutola Beach.
While at Mutola, they repeated all the activities they had done at Mutima. At 7pm, Masole, who was the navigator, told his team to board and their plan was to head to Ggaba Beach before the match between Spurs and Chelsea could start.
A few kilometres to Mutima beach, Masole says he saw torches in middle of the lake. He wondered whether they were sand mine transporters or fishermen catching silver fish.
He remembered that the army had a few days back stopped the two activities and he chose to reduce the speed of his boat.
“When I reduced the speed, I heard people screaming for help. It was around 7:30pm. I sailed closer and I saw people floating on water while others sunk into it with no help. I decided to first drop my team at Mutima Beach and returned to rescue victims,” Masole says.
Finding Iryn Namubiru
Masole adds that people at the beach who had heard the screams wanted to board his boat but he declined because it could make his rescue mission difficult.
He found a woman holding a phone with lights on. She screamed for help and she was a few metres away from the capsized boat.
“I first picked her phone and placed it on the tent of my boat. I then got her bag because it was making her fail to board the boat. I pulled her out of the water and move to save other people.
I rescued 12 people in my first trip. People tried to grab our boat and we almost capsized too. I remember a woman asking for her phone but I ordered her to disembark very fast because I wanted to rescue others,” Masole says.
He says he made four other routes carrying eight to 10 victims but whoever he dropped at the landing site could just take off.
He says only three people were dead out of the five trips he made.
Masole, who grew up fishing and transporting people and items on water in Mukono and Ggaba, says the three people he saw dead had life jackets but the jackets did not match their weight.
“Their jackets were small and weak to contain their weight. You cannot wear a jacket of a person weighing 50kg when you are 80kg and you expect to survive. People should know that jackets have sizes and you should wear that which matches your weight,” Masole says.
Masole says he witnessed a group of people stealing survivors and people’s property such as phones, wallets and bags.
His smart phone and shoes were not spared too. He says Namubiru’s phone and shoes survived because they were in his boat all the time.
He adds that he did not recognise any of the people he had rescued until people called the woman’s phone which he had forgotten in the boat that he later learnt it was for singer Namubiru.
“I have always organised boat cruises for students and we always go when we are more than 20. But this time only 10 turned up out of 30 I expected.
After the incident, six students refused to return on the boat. They chose to stay at Mutima. I reached Luzira Landing Site with only four of them,” Masole says.
Contacting the singer
By the time Masole arrived at his home in Kansanga a few minutes to midnight, Namubiru’s phone had gone off because of low battery. He tried charging it with his smart phone but it failed.
He bought a new charger at Shs15,000 but still it could not go on since it needed a password.
Masole removed the singer’s SIM card and inserted it in his phone.
The singer’s manager and relatives called him and they met and drove to her home where she was quickly recognised him.
“She saw me and quickly recognised me. She told the manger that I had saved her life even before I said a word. I gave her the SIM card and I told her I had left the phone at home charging. But she talked with fear and seemed in shock,” Masole says.
Musole says he is traumatised by the incident, adding that it was his first time to rescue people and watch others drown.
He says the images are have been stuck in his mind.
“When I am alone at home or at campus trying to read books, I see images of dead bodies we lined up on the shore. I can’t stop seeing people crying for my help as they were being swallowed by the lake.
I wish I had capacity to save all of them,” Masole says.
By Daily Monitor