Two people have been confirmed dead after their boat believed to be overloaded capsized in the Maleny River in the southern Pujehun District.

Maleny is one of the smallest among several rivers that characterizes Pujehun and neighboring Bonthe district. Maleny notably separates Kpanga and Malen chiefdoms in Pujehun.

The boat was traveling between Blama Puila in the Kpanga Chiefdom and Gambia Makapoi in Malen Chiefdom. The two neighboring communities are only accessible to each other by boat.

The Maleny River usually swells up every year, especially at the height of the rainy season. And it has led to many boat accidents in the past.

This latest incident, according to sources and local authorities, occurred in the evening of Saturday, September 3rd, 2022. The boat, which witnesses describe as a narrow-wooden vessel, had nine people onboard, as well as three motorbikes, musical instruments and goods.

The two victims went missing for hours after the accident, before their bodies were recovered on Sunday, 4th September.

The seven survivors were initially taken to the community health center in Sahn Malen for medical checkups and later released.

One of the victims, identified as 21-year-old Paul Jr. Sengeh, who hailed from Bamba Village, was a student of the Malen Government Secondary School. The second victim, Sonny Boy, 24, was a disk jockey from Hongai Village. Both communities are in Malen Chiefdom.

Their remains were laid to rest on Monday evening.

A local chief in Gambia Village, Joe Moriba, referred to the incident as a “dark moment” for the families of those who lost their lives.

Chief Moriba said the incident occurred in his absence, while away on an official community business. He told ManoReporters that almost all of the villages along riverine communities, including his, had formulated by-laws that prohibit overloading of boats and underage rowing, which he said has over the years led to the loss of many lives due to boat accidents.

According to Mr Moriba, many boat rowers have found it hard to adhere to these by-laws. He also said that most of the boat accidents that have occurred were as a result of overloading.

Between 2021 and 2022, a total of four people are reported to have died in similar accidents.

Chief Moriba promised to work with the Sierra Leone Police to investigate this latest incident and ensure that anyone who is found wanting faces the law.

Chiefdom authorities from Malen have ordered the sub-chiefs along the riverine communities to intensify enforcement of their by-laws to prevent further boat accidents. Paramount Chief, Victor Siddie Kebbie of Malen, called on the two chiefs from Blama and Gambia Makapoi to join the police in their investigations to establish the cause of the incident.

The Police in Sahn Malen told ManoReporters that they were still investigating the matter