The Rapid Action Battalion yesterday said three of the four masters and drivers of the MV Abhijan-10, which caught fire mid-river early Friday and killed at least 42, did not have the Department of Shipping's clearance to operate the vessel.
RAB's Media Wing Director Khandaker Al Moin also said the vessel owners recently changed the engine of the launch without adhering to proper procedures.
At a press conference at its media centre at the capital's Kawran Bazar, he said the on-duty crew of MV Abhijan-10 left the launch quickly after the fire broke out and did not take any step to douse the fire.
"Their inaction led to the fire to further intensify and deal greater damage on the launch," said the media wing director.
"Within 10 minutes of the fire on the launch, Supervisor Anwar informed the arrested owner Hamjalal on his mobile phone about the fire. But he did not inform any agency or emergency services.
"The master, driver and the crew rushed to the shore. But since they did not anchor the launch, the vessel floated towards the middle of the river. After about 45 minutes the vessel reached the other side of the river. The fire service could not reach the other side quickly, which has caused so much horror," he said.
Meanwhile, a team of Criminal Investigation Department personnel and forensic experts from Dhaka yesterday started collecting DNA samples from the relatives of missing MV Abhijan-10 passengers – to identify the dead bodies recovered so far.
Arit Sarkar, assistant superintendent of the CID, said they would continue to collect samples until Tuesday if necessary.
"Through DNA profiling we will be able to determine the identities of the burnt dead bodies," he said, adding that the DNA profiling will take three to four weeks.
Relatives gathered at the Jhalakathi Mini Park to provide DNA samples. The CID team also collected samples from the relatives of missing passengers in Barguna, where people gathered at the city's circuit house to give samples.
Meanwhile, the dead body of a youth was found floating near Napiter Hat Bazar area in Jhalakathi's Rajarpur upazila, half a kilometre away from the location of the MV Abhijan-10 launch fire.
"Locals informed the police when they saw a body floating on the water around 8am Monday, and a team of the Jhalakathi Fire Service and Civil Defence recovered the body with the help of police personnel," Jhalakathi Sadar police station Officer-in-Charge Md Khalilur Rahman told The Business Standard.
The dead body was taken to Jhalakathi sadar hospital morgue for autopsy following the police inquest report.
When word spread about the recovery of a dead body, many relatives rushed to Jhalakathi to identify the dead body.
One of the four owners of the MV Abhijan-10 launch, Hamjalal Sheikh, was arrested on Sunday morning, a day after arrest warrants were issued against eight people, including the four launch owners, said the Rapid Action Battalion's Legal and Media wing Director, Commander Khandaker Al Moin.
Special Metropolitan Magistrate Joynab Begum of the Marine Court issued the order after a case was filed for the incident on 26 December.
According to the case statement, the accused in the case are the four owners of the launch company Messer's Al Araf & Company: Hamjalal Sheikh, Md Shamim Ahmed, Md Russell Ahmed and Ferdous Hasan Rabbi; the Master-in-Charge of the launch, Md Riaz Sikder; Driver-in-Charge, Md Masum Billah; Second Master Md Khalilur Rahman, and Second Driver Abul Kalam.
The incident took place when a huge fire broke out at 3am on Friday on the Barguna-bound launch carrying some "1,000" passengers from Dhaka.
The death toll from the fire incident climbed to 42 on Saturday night. Over 70 people suffered injuries and many are still missing.
The number of missing people rose to 44, according to the Barguna and Jhalakathi district administrations.
Passengers who escaped the fire said the fire broke out from the canteen and engine room and continued for hours.
The rescue operation to find missing passengers is still underway.