Colombian Tour Boat Sinks, Killing Seven
On Sunday, a tour boat on Colombia's Peňol-Guatapé reservoir foundered and sank with about 140 passengers on board. Seven are confirmed dead, four are missing and 130 were rescued. The owner's daughter is reportedly among those who perished.
Video from the scene shows that the passenger vessel’s first deck was submerged within 15 seconds after the first signs of trouble, leaving little time for tourists to get out. Swarms of small boats responded to the scene to rescue survivors from the water. Colombian Air Force helicopters participated in the search and rescue effort and provided logistics for other SAR forces, including a military dive team.
Divers continue the search for the missing, but officials say that low visibility, cold water, stormy weather and enclosed compartments have made the effort difficult. Once the dive team has completed the initial search and all preparations are in place, salvors intend to refloat the vessel – the El Almirante – to examine its interior.
The cause of the sinking remains under investigation. The local prosecutor's office has opened a criminal inquiry with the potential for manslaughter charges; however, in an initial statement, the prosecutor said that social media rumors of overcrowding were incorrect, and that the vessel was broadly in compliance with legal requirements. He confirmed that the El Almirante had sunk at the pier several months ago, but he said that this was related to a failed hose – not a structural problem, as initially reported.