Following five days of unsuccessful hard work, it was a sigh of relief for the joint team of Works ministry, UPDF and police marines when on the sixth day they were able to retrieve MV Templar from water and on Friday the mission was accomplished.
The operation that started with a search and rescue mission since Saturday evening when the boat capsized saw a total of 33 dead bodies recovered whereas 27 were saved.
Later on Monday, the operation turned into one for recovering dead bodies suspected to be trapped beneath water and retrieving of the boat’s wreckage.
A team of divers from the UPDF and police marine departments and other private ones was from Sunday engaged in operation to go underneath waters in a bid to look for bodies and any property connected to the capsized boat.
These would go into the waters in pairs and on a number of times and retrieved valuable items.
Locals too were never spared by the operation as many of them came to stare at what was happening whereas others took part in helping those carrying out the operation.
A number of items including national IDs, driving permits and ATM cards were recovered from bags and wallets recovered from the wreckage of the ill-fated MV Templar.
Other items included condoms, packets of sanitary pads, combs and the two engines used to propel the boat were also recovered from either the boat or beneath water at the scene of accident.
Seven boats deployed
A total of seven boats belonging to the Uganda Police and UPDF marine departments were deployed daily as part of the operation.
These would be used to transport divers and other equipment including wires and ropes also used during the operation.
Since Saturday several police officers from the Field Force Unit, general duties, marine and UPDF soldiers from the marine department were deployed for the mission.
On Monday, locals together with officers used ropes to try to pull the wreckage out of water but this proved futile.
Later, the operation involved several days of using ropes and wires tied on the wreckage on one end and earth moving equipment on the other side trying to pull the latter out of the water.
On several occasions, the ropes and wires would snap rendering the operation to stall.
On the third day MV Kalangala was deployed to help pull the wreckage out of water and succeeded in the mission that saw part of the wreckage move to the top of the water.
Speaking to journalists later, AIGP Asuman Mugenyi who led the operation termed the operation of moving part of the vessel out of water as a success.
Since the start of the operation on Saturday, city socialite Brian Kirumira, also known as, Brian White was a common figure at Mutima beach.
Dressed in tight jeans and long sleeved shirts, army boots and guarded by several Presidential Police Guards, the flamboyant White always took part in everything being done during the operation right from stepping in the water to pull the rope to lifting big logs.
He would on several occasions give orders to whoever he realized was doing nothing during the operation.
“I thank God for answering my prayers for If it had failed, they were going to laugh at me,”Kirumira said when the wreckage was finally moved to the lake shores.
The killer boat
Following the Saturday tragedy, a number of survivors claimed there were over 100 revelers aboard the ill-fated MV Templar that was destined for K-Palm beach but capsized at Mutima Country haven in Mukono district.
Following the seven day operation, only 33 dead bodies were recovered whereas 27 people were rescued, casting doubt on reports that the vessel had over 100 occupants before the accident.
Reports by several fishermen who were the first responders and some of the survivors indicated that some people jumped off earlier before it capsized whereas others said some of those saved left Mutima beach quietly for fear of being identified.
The bottom of the boat has two holes that had concrete used to close them and prevent the vessel from leaking but unfortunately this was not possible.
The boat also had a number of chairs in the front and hind parts where revelers used to sit as they enjoyed the trip.
The two engines used to propel the vessel had been detached off following the incident.
Despite being without a manifest, a total of 33 dead bodies were recovered from the Lake Victoria waters after the deadly Saturday incident.
Over 100 officers from the Fire and rescue, Criminal Investigation Directorate, homicide, Field Force Unit, general duties, marine, medical, Counter Terrorism and Public Relations Office of the police force were deployed.
Of the 100, over 20 were from the marine and Special Forces units of the UPDF.
A total of over 50 journalists from both local and international media covered the operation that lasted seven days.
The police team was led by AIGP Asuman Mugenyi whereas Brig.Michael Nyarwa led the UPDF marine team.
A total of six people are still missing after being reported by relatives to police as having been part of the occupants on the killer vessel.
These are Peter Kakooza, Godfrey Musisi, Sylivia Namutebi, Andrew Ssenyonga, Esther Adongo and Jaffar Munyaha.
Their whereabouts are still unknown following the end of the operation.