Culpable homicide charges against tug owner lost in Cyclone Tauktae
Indian authorities have confirmed culpable homicide charges against the owner of the ocean-going tug that sank during a powerful storm off the coast of India last month. The houseboat P305 and the tug Varaprada were two of the ships that became stranded on May 17 as Cyclone Tauktae passed offshore near Mumbai.
Both ships worked for the state oil company operating in the offshore oil fields near Mumbai. The barge sank with 261 people on board with 186 survivors. It attracted international attention during the search and rescue operation organized by the Indian Navy. The storm had intensified with winds reaching 110 mph. Media said crews initially believed the storm would be much weaker and would be able to handle winds that are expected to be in the 25mph range.
The anchor tug Varaprada was bringing a construction barge, the Girls Builder, loaded with 137 people returning to Mumbai when the storm hit. The tug was said to have drifted on the high seas before separating from the barge, which later ran aground, prompting another search and rescue operation. the Varaprada, however, remained trapped in the sinking high seas with a crew of 13 on board.
The Indian Navy rescued two of its crew members from the ocean, and divers later located the sunken tug. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard recovered the bodies of 11 crew members missing in the ocean as well as 75 bodies from the barge.
A first briefing report was filed with Mumbai Police on June 24 based on information provided by one of the tugboat survivors. Under Indian law, the charges were culpable homicide not amounting to murder, meaning the tug owner is charged with causing the death of the crew. The Hindustan Times quotes the second surviving engineer, Francis Simon, accusing the shipowner of poor maintenance and ignoring necessary repairs, contributing to the loss of the tug on May 17.
Mumbai Police Conduct Separate Investigation into Circumstances of Barge Loss P305. The media indicate that the investigation is also focusing on one case of culpable homicide in connection with the loss of the barge. Authorities said the captain of the barge, who was among the missing, has been named as the accused in the case.