His first instinct on the day of the tragic ordeal was safety and not that of self, but of those that were on his boat and the struggling victims. Brian Masole is a 23-year-old who has been sailing and navigating the waters of Lake Victoria with his father since the age of 7. He is currently a third year Mass Communications student at KIU main campus.
On that day, Masole had taken friends sailing as he had done countless times before. “It is how I earn some extra money. I use my Dad’s motor boats and my friends pay me to take them. On that day, they were 12 people on his boat which at full capacity carries a whole 25 people and they were taking tours of various places such as Ggaba, Mutoola beach and various islands around. They had started their tour at 2pm and they too had stopped at Mutima beach earlier that day as one of their last stops before heading back to Ggaba. As they set off from Mutoola at 7pm, Brian noticed something strange.
“I have been on the water many times and I could see that something was not right,” Masole says. He also adds, “The lights that were on the water were so deem, unlike the ones usually used by fishermen.”
He asked his friends if they could go closer, but they were not approving of the idea and even said that might be a thief trap; these are common on water bodies. However, the roar of his own boat engine could not let him hear the screams for help and this prompted Masole to slow down and thus lessen the sound of the roar. He at the same time saw the tip of a sinking boat and knew that they needed him.
“And that is when I heard them screaming for help. So many voices,” says Masole. He quickly thought of what to do and decided that since the screams were many, he would first go ashore, drop his friends off and come back to save these others. By 7:20pm, Masole was headed to the sinking boat to save people.
Saving Irene Namubiru
“The first to get on the boat was Irene Namubiru,” Masole narrates. I did not recognize her then. She held onto the boat, passed me her phone, shoes and handbag then I pulled her onto the boat. What saved her most was that she had a life jacket on. Masole pulled more people in and took the first route ashore. There were 12 people on that route and immediately after putting them ashore, he went back for more and did this a whole 5 times, and not caring to count the number he was taking on, he just knew that he had to save as many as he could, and true to his wish, he did save as many people as possible. Masole also carried ashore 3 dead bodies, including that of the Late Mrs. Bisase.
Boat nearly sinks
“The second round nearly sank my boat as so many people were desperate to get on,” Masole recounts. So he decided to tell people to just hold on tightly to the edges of the boat and then he dragged them ashore.
“I cannot recall the identity of anybody that I saved; it is them that can recognize me or the boat,” he adds. This is because all the other boats at the site were small and his was the biggest at the time.
“I know for a fact that many people were saved, even beyond the declared number,” Masole recounts. “Most people left as soon as they got ashore,” Masole adds. He also says that most of people that had been the boat were opulent people and they were not accepting photos or videos of them to be taken. Most of them used Bodabodas, even Irene herself used one. Masole further narrates that even some of his own friends that he had come with refused to get back on the boat and decided to figure out a different route on land; they were traumatized.
When he saw that there were no more people straggling, he set off for Luzira, where he was meant to have been. When we asked Masole why he did not stay and wait on the police, he said that the boat he was on was needed back in Luzira and the arrival of the police would mean that he cannot take it back immediately. As he was looking for a place to dock back in Luzira, Masole noticed a light on the roof of the boat and when he picked it up and noticed that it was coming from a cellphone. He did not know who it belonged to, so he decided to keep with it until someone who knew the owner called on it and eventually, someone did. This is how Brian comes to find out that the first woman that he had saved was Irene Namubiru.
“They were desperate to know whether or not she [Irene] had survived the accident,” he says. So he says that he decided to send them to Mutima beach to confirm for themselves and insisted that the owner of the phone should pick it up herself.
Masole says that he was not scared when he saw this because he had seen this before some years back in Luzira. The only negative he has is the trauma he is dealing with, amidst his semester finals.
Not all is bad because he has gotten some funding from BBC’s Allan Kasujja and a one Patrick; promises of help with his tuition next semester.