Written by Staff Writer by Vanessa Fotheringham, CNN
“If you don’t have your canoe, use your hands!”
It’s a last words Edith was heard shouting to her friend, a student from the country of Burkina Faso, before they were both swept away when a capsized boat carrying Nigerian students to a tuition fee-free school in the west African nation capsized.
Twenty-eight bodies have now been recovered from the vessel, with another seven missing and presumed dead.
“They were washed away to their death by strong winds and waves,” Dr. Charles Azeugbu of the University College Hospital in Ifo said, while describing the traumatized students as in bad shape following the incident.
Student Edith Adu Bojang was one of those feared lost at sea. Credit: CURTIS LEE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Azeugbu told CNN that 13 people had been pulled from the water alive but two students later died in hospital.
The driver of the boat, whose name has not been released but is believed to be from the country of Benin, and a student also believed to be from Benin, survived the accident with minor injuries.
The school, Afe Babalola College of Education, had initially sent a statement via the University of Ibadan, where it is located.
“It is with great sadness that we inform you that the boat transporting a group of students from Nigeria to attend the tuition free AMBEC (Afe Babalola College of Education) Awka was capsized along the River Awka in Anambra State, with the loss of many lives.
“We are deeply pained that this untimely and tragic loss of lives occurred at this point and in the light of the excellent safety arrangements put in place by AMBEC during their annual vacation and holidays which end today, December 30, 2017,” the statement read.
Students of the Afe Babalola College of Education Awka bemoan the sudden death of their colleagues in a boat accident. Credit: STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
However, police sources told CNN that after the toll had risen to 28, the university later issued another statement saying the death toll had risen to 29.
Uju Ikpeze, an Ondo State commissioner, also addressed the incident saying “the bus used for the journey was overloaded and didn’t have life jackets. Students died, but those that survived the accident are receiving medical attention and their rescuers have been put to work searching for missing persons.”
The incident follows another fatal accident in November last year, when 31 students were killed when the bus in which they were traveling, overturned on the route from Ijebu-Ode to the Federal University of Technology, Akure, in Ondo State.
The loss of these innocent lives is hitting the school’s students hard.
“It is really tragic that a person can work so hard to get one’s education, and then it is snatched away,” student Yemisi Ogunbiyi told CNN while tearfully recalling the ordeal of the victims of the recent accident.
Following the tragedy, Ghana’s Ministry of Education ordered its colleges and universities to review safety measures for students.
“It is necessary to start with the training of the road transport personnel in traffic management, with the view to reducing mishaps,” Dr. Kwaku Oppong Asiamah, Ghana’s Minister of Education, said in a statement.
The statement continued that there were also plans to reinforce the enforcement of health and safety regulations.