20 lives were lost after a mishap at the Buruku crossing point of River Katsina-Ala,Benue state on Wednesday night.
Eyewitnesses said 20 persons died in the boat, which left Logo at 8 p.m and capsized on the Buruku side of the river.
The Chairman of Ugonduzua branch of Benue Motorcycle Association Mr Felix Ikyaajime said the association lost 17 members.
Ikyaajime said the victims were going for a burial ceremony at Buruku when the boat capsized.
Three bodies and 18 motorcycles had been recovered by a rescue team yesterday while the search for others was in progress.
I saw bodies floating on river, says boat operator.
A 25-year-old boat operator, Tersoo Ape, told The Nation how the boat capsized and his efforts to rescue the passengers as well as recover the bodies of victims.
The boat operator spoke at the bank of River Katsina-Ala.
“My name is Tersoo Ape. I have been in the boat business for nine years at Buruku crossing point.
“On Wednesday evening, some people came to the other side of bank of the river. They were many: some had motorcycles; others wore mourning clothes. They told us that they were on their way to attend a wake and burial across the river.
“So, we provided a big boat. They loaded their motorcycles inside the boat with many passengers. Everyone was struggling to board the boat. We discovered that it wasn’t possible. So, we pleaded with others to wait for another boat, but our plea turned on deaf ears.
“Halfway across the river, the boat’s engine stopped and heavy waves attacked the boat. It immediately capsized.
“The passengers in the boat were men and women as well as youths. Some of them could not swim; so, they were submerged in the deep water.
“I dived into the river and rescued those I could. But the following day (yesterday) when we continued the search, I saw many bodies floating on top of the water. It was a horrible sight.”
Ape urged the state government to provide standard passenger boats and build a bridge across the river to link Benue with Taraba State.