Jan 28, 2015, 10:16 AM
He was brought to answer to charges in connection with the boat disaster, which caused the death of eight people at the Banjul–Barra river crossing.
Mbenga was arraigned, charged with two counts of rash and negligent act causing death, and conveying person by water for hire in unsafe or overloaded vessel.
Count one stated that on 9 October 2013, between Banjul and Barra in the River Gambia, Alagie Mbenga in a rash and negligent manner caused the death of Bora Kejera, Lamin Conteh, Yusupha Fofana, Momodou Jallow, Cherno Ceesay, Ebrima Jeng, Sheikh Faal and Seedy Jahateh, by unlawfully and unsafely carrying them on board a fishing canoe as passengers across the River Gambia from Banjul to Barra, which capsized.
Count two alleged that on 9 October 2013, between Banjul and Barra in the River Gambia, he knowingly and negligently carried the following persons with an unsafe fishing canoe as passengers across the River Gambia namely, Bora Kejera, Lamin Conteh, Yusupha Fofana, Momodou Jallow, Cherno Ceesay, Ebrima Jeng, Sheikh Faal and Seedy Jahateh, which boat capsized and caused their death.
The accused person who looked very remorseful told the court that he accepted what the court said, but that he was asked by his in-law, who was among the victims, to pick them from Banjul to take them to Barra.
“I told him that I have a fishing boat not for passengers, which is not allowed by the authority, but he insisted that I should pick them up because his wife was not feeling well at the time; and being my in-law I decided to help to pick them,’’ said the accused person.
“Upon my arrival, I found him with the other people. He said he cannot leave them behind as they were together,” he further stated.
Police prosecuting officer cadet Fadera later told the court that the case was just for mention, and that the case file was sent to the Attorney General’s Chambers for legal advice.
The case was then adjourned till 5th November 2013.
It would be recalled that a fishing boat carrying nine people on 9 October 2013 reportedly capsized in the Banjul to Barra crossing point, causing the death of eight persons in stormy seas at night.
The incident has thrown into focus, the general concern for safety of commuters across the strip of water that divides the capital from the northern half of the country and Senegal beyond, ever since ferry services suffered disruptions sometime this year.
Witnesses of the incident described a scene of deep emotion as relatives heard of the death of their loved ones, while the public waited in suspense as the true nature of the accident became clearer.
Rescue workers from the security forces helped found the corpses, which were later taken to the mortuary in Banjul as police conduct identification processes.