Selfie Attempt Leaves Nine Dead in Boat Accident

The tragedy in Indonesia also raised questions about safety standards.
May 18, 2021, 10:27am
Search and rescue operations; Indonesia
Rescuers searching for victims after a boat carrying 20 tourists capsized at a reservoir in Central Java, Indonesia. Photo: National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) / AFP

Nine people have died after an ill-fated attempt at taking a group selfie during a tourist outing caused a boat to capsize in Indonesia.

The boat, which was reportedly helmed by a 13-year-old, was said to be carrying some 20 passengers to a floating restaurant in Central Java province on Saturday. The trip was part of celebrations for the Eid holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

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Local police chief Ahmad Luthfi said that the boat had “almost reached” its destination when the accident happened as the group moved to one end, shifting its weight. 

“The passengers suddenly moved to the front to take a selfie. The boat then lost balance and overturned,” Luthfi was quoted as saying in CNN Indonesia

Tinuk, a survivor who goes by one name, said that water began filling the boat when they prepared to take the selfie. 

“It caused the boat to capsize,” he told Indonesian newspaper Kompas

Witnesses said that some people tried to save the passengers. Search and rescue workers also tried to help find the bodies in a search over the weekend. The body of a teenage girl was one of the last to be found.

“Smaller boats on the edge of the reservoir approached the capsized boat to rescue them, but only 11 survived,” a local resident named Kardiyo Erna told Kompas.

Rescuers carrying the body of a victim (PHOTO: National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) / AFP)

Rescuers carrying the body of a victim. PHOTO: National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) / AFP

Boat accidents are relatively common in Indonesia, where lax safety standards can lead to deadly outcomes. The skipper on the boat reportedly admitted that there were no life jackets, and the vessel could only carry a maximum of 14 people.

Luthfi said authorities were still investigating see if negligence from boat operators was a factor. The Central Java governor warned all tourist attraction managers to meet safety standards or they would be shut down.

In a highly-publicized disaster in 2018, a crowded ferry carrying upwards of 200 people sank in Indonesia’s Lake Toba. Only 21 people survived, while the remaining passengers were never found.

Additional translation by Annisa Nurul Aziza. Follow Annisa Nurul Aziza and Heather Chen on Twitter.