Five days after the Din Ky sank in the Saigon River killing 16 people, a guest who had been on board and survived by swimming ashore toldTuoi Trewhat actually happened.
“The accident took place so fast that nobody had time to get a life jacket,” Tran Thanh Long, himself a pilot of another boat, said.
At around 5 pm, when the Din Ky left the quay, he had been drinking with three friends on the upper deck.
On the lower deck, a child’s birthday party was in progress with children laughing happily and adults talking to each other.
It was very hot and muggy, a sign of approaching rain and storm.
It soon started pouring and strong winds began to lash the boat. The attendants closed all the windows to prevent the guests from getting wet.
The wind was getting stronger and stronger. A glass window broke on the upper deck, and the ship began pitch violently.
With passengers beginning to worry, the sound of laughter and conversation on the lower deck dried up.
As a sailor, he had a feeling of looming disaster. “I told the ship manager to order the pilot to head back to shore immediately since the weather conditions were very dangerous.” Fifteen minutes later the wind got stronger, but the ship still did not to turn back.
“The ship manager assured me and others that the ship was trying to return to the quay. The starboard [right] side was facing the wind. It was extremely dangerous.
“When the ship kept pitching violently, I rushed into the cabin and found the pilot trying to maneuver the ship in vain.
“I asked him to turn course to avoid the strong wind but he replied, ‘I have tried my best but I cannot turn the prow.’”
At that time he began to hear shouts and screams below from women and children. He saw some men break some windows to exit the vessel. The boat swung to port [left] and water began rushing in.
Immediately, the power went and there was chaos among the guests, many of whom were stuck by or buried under tables and chairs that began to fall over the place, as they struggled to escape.
Long ran out of the pilot’s cabin and found one of his friends, Phuc, had jumped into the river. The two others, blocked by tables and chairs, were crying for help.
The lower deck was fully submerged.
He managed to pull his two friends out and they were rescued by a boat sent from shore.