Vietnamese police said yesterday that human error was to blame for the sinking of a tour boat in Ha Long Bay that killed 12 sleeping passengers, and the vessel’s captain and a crew member have been arrested.
A valve that allows water to come into the boat to cool the engine was left open while the vessel was anchored for the night, Quang Ninh provincial police spokesman Le Thanh Binh said. The engine was turned off, preventing a pump from running to push the water out, he said.
Eleven foreign tourists from nine countries were among those who drowned when the boat went down in the scenic bay on Thursday.
“The initial police investigation showed that the man in charge of the boat engine forgot to close the valve that allowed water in to cool the engine before he, the captain and other crew went to bed,” Binh said. “When they found out about that, it was too late.”
The tour boat was inundated with gushing water when it went down at about 5am on Thursday, trapping passengers in their overnight cabins. All of the Vietnamese crew survived, along with nine foreign tourists.
However, 11 vacationers from the US, Britain, Australia, Japan, Russia, France, Sweden and Switzerland drowned, along with their Vietnamese tour guide.
It was Vietnam’s deadliest tour boat accident since the country opened up to foreign visitors 25 years ago.
Boat captain Nguyen Van Minh, 22, and Do Van Thang, 27, who was in charge of the engine, were arrested on Saturday, Binh said. The two, along with three other crew members, had been detained earlier for questioning.
State-controlled Thanh Nien newspaper quoted an anonymous source as saying Truong Hai Co, which owned the Dream Voyage, was previously named the Bien Mo Co. It owned a boat that sank in Ha Long Bay in September 2009, killing three foreigners and two Vietnamese during heavy rains. The company changed its name four months ago, the paper said.