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IRYN: There were so many signs before the boat went down

Marine units in action on Lake Victoria. FILE PHOTO

THE DAY THE BOAT WENT DOWN IN NALUBAALE, THERE WERE SO MANY SIGNS

MY STORY | Iryn Namubiru | On Friday night, I tried to sleep. I could not. There is a born again church nearby and they started praying very early and never stopped. I could hear the speakers, you know, the boom and bang and they would pray. I could not do anything. Instead of getting annoyed, I just stood up and started praying with the people from the church. I slept at around 5 in the morning.

The day before, my driver got in a terrible accident and was in hospital, so I had been there and promised to go back. Now, come Saturday morning, I get a call at 9am telling me “we’re being discharged. Come to hospital.” So I went to Nsambya Hospital around 10am and I left midday. They were still not ready to leave. On my way back home, I passed by my saloon for a pedicure in Lubowa.

While there, a friend of mine called Mr. Hope Mukasa calls me and tells me: you know what, I am here. Friends invited me for something. We are going on a boat.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but I asked him what time they were leaving. He told me maybe in an hour, then he called back after a few minutes telling me “we are leaving at 1:30pm to be exact, so that leaves you 50 minutes.”

I told him “no way. I don’t do boat cruises, and I’m doing my nails anyway. I won’t have time to come.” Anyway, I wasn’t really enthusiastic, so I let it go.

Then the time he told me elapsed. At 1:30 he calls me and says, “you know what? Can you believe, we’re still here. We haven’t left yet.”

I said, “you know what, go. I won’t make it. Just go.” I finished my nails and drove home around 2 o’clock. I found an interesting article about the Sentinelese, that uncontacted tribe in those Indian islands, and started reading about it.

Around ten past two, Hope calls me again to tell me “so you really are not coming? You should come. Come try it.”

I was like, “but what if I start preparing and within no time the boat comes?”

He said, “No, you try. Come.”

FACEBOOK PHOTO: Iryn and Brian who saved her

So I got ready. I dressed up and drove to Gaba. He directed me to the place. I finally arrived at a quarter to 3 at KK Beach. He saw me from a distance and waved, so I found them at a table.

They introduced me to the people who were there. Actually at the same table was the Prince Wasajja, whom I had not recognized, but then I recognized him and greeted him, and there were many other people, some of whose names I’ve since learned from papers. I saw many others that I knew, like OBs and Chuck Brian who died.

People were asking about the situation of the boat. The boat wasn’t coming, but booze was flowing. There was every kind of alcohol. People were downing double Black Labels and other whiskeys and Cognac like it was their last day. And anything you asked for, you were served by the bottle, it was always a full bottle for one person. My host was not drinking.

I didn’t know who was financing it, but they told me it was a gentleman called Freeman. I didn’t know him, but they were telling me there is Freeman who paid for everything, so everything was free.

So when I thought the boat wasn’t coming, that was coming to 4pm, I told Hope: “You know what? I think I’m tired already. I want to go back. I’ve seen people. I don’t know these people. These are not things I really do. I think I should go back home.” I started picking my bag to go, but he requested me to remain. That was the first time I was attempting to leave.

The second time, I saw the boat coming. They told me: “Ok, now the boat is here.” I saw it from a distance, but it took another 30 minutes to arrive, and then they started ferrying people to it.

We walked towards those small boats that were taking people to the big boat, and my heart was telling me ‘no, don’t go.’ So I turned and came back and sat somewhere where I found another friend and OB from Namasagali called Arnold Simbwa and other friends. There was another one called Stella Ntanda who was telling me “Iryn, no way. You are not leaving us here. You have to come with us. Do you want to be like Arnold who has already refused to go?”

I was thinking: you know what? I don’t really feel it. I don’t want to go. I’ve been here long enough. Let me just go back home. I did not sleep last night, i need to make up for my sleep.My friends were telling me “no, don’t leave.” So the second time, I still stayed.

The third time, I walked towards my car. My friends asked, “are you really going?”

I said, “Yes, this time I am going.”

They said, “Ok come and say goodbye to Freeman.”

I asked, “who is Freeman anyway? I don’t know Freeman.” They showed him to me in the distance about to board a small boat. I didn’t leave, but went with them to talk to Freeman. I had attempted not to get on that boat three times.

At the shore, they said, “let’s go!” Then Freeman tried to explain to me “you know, we were scheduled to leave around midday, but then the boat got issues, but eventually he has managed. He has come. Now it’s here. We can go. You know, the boat had a few hiccups.”

‘The boat has had hiccups, but let’s go’

Eh! I was like, “Oh my God, a few hiccups? Hiccups? You mean the boat itself, or whoever was organizing had hiccups, as in problems ?”

He said “the boat.”

Oh, that shocked me a little. I was like, “the boat? Hrm…” Anyway, we took one of those small boats that take us to the big boat.

On the big boat, the music was booming and it was full to capacity or even over booked. I had no seat. I had no life jacket. Someone said, “we can as well leave all those who have not boarded now. Tugende! Tubaleke!”

The boat that had dropped us was going back with life jackets, so I called it back and said, “we need to get life jackets. I cannot be on this boat without a jacket.” So they got us three blue lifejackets. There’s a guy who got one, one for me and one for Hope. I wore my jacket and fastened it right away, and then I remained on the boat.

Many never had a jacket, and many who had did not even fasten them. When Hope wore his, somehow he left it open claiming he was feeling hot. That’s when I said, “hee ogila okyawoza ebyo , olowooza elyaato bweliba ligwaayo likuwa time y’okusiba life jacket?” meaning, “don’t joke, do you think when the boat is capsizing it gives you time to fasten your jacket?” I fasten mine even harder.

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