Exclusive: The Story of 2 ESKOM Divers who Died at Isimba

On Wednesday two deaths were reported at newly constructed 180mw Isimba Dam located in Kayunga District. trumpet news
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The power generating station is fully functioning with four turbines running and managed by Uganda Electricity Generating Company Limited (UEGCL) under the leadership of Eng. Harrison Mutikanga.

At first media reports suggested that the two men who drowned at the dam were UEGCL engineers. The development was confirmed by Ssezibwa Regional Police Spokeswoman Hellen Butito.

However, UEGCL spokesperson Simon Kasyate dismissed the reports insisting that the organization could account for all its engineers at the station at that time.

The contractor, China Water also denied that none of its staff had drowned.

On Thursday, TrumpetNews which earlier published the story, learnt through Ms. Hellen Butito that the deceased were not engineers but divers.

Asked to expound what business were divers conducting at the station at the time of their death, Butito feigned unawareness but seemed to have been under pressure to clarify on the death.

“I also don’t know what they were doing. But they are not engineers, they are divers,” she said.

The deceased were identified as Simon Kato and a one Timothy.

After several years of a protracted battle between UEGCL and Ministry of Energy on who handles the administration of two mega projects, Karuma and Isimba dams in late 2016, the former succeeded.

Before the takeover, the two mega projects had been in news for a long time after meeting uncountable technical challenges particularly in the design and construction of the dams.

Ministry of Energy top officials had been implicated in messing the projects by colluding with contractors to do shoddy work.

The mess resulted into sacking of many officials including Energy Ministry Permanent Secretary Kalisa Kabagambe who was accused of collaborating with contractors to inflate figures among other many reasons.

But at a time of handover, many officials from the Energy Ministry recommended ESKOM, a South African power generating firm as a potential successor for Karuma and Isimba.

The idea was ESKOM had been tested by managing Bujagali power station and therefore would envisage any predicament at the dams and sort it as fast as could.

“UEGCL’s experience was questioned. But it won the battle and took over the dams,” said an official in government.

Beginning with Isimba, an Indian company that had been hired earlier to supervise the dam, Energy Infratech PVT Limited (EIPL) by Ministry of Energy, its contract was not renewed.

But instead, UEGCL deployed its engineers to replace Infratech.

The role of the supervisor on site is to do check and balances, assess hazards, determine risks, conduct regular inspections, and maintain a safety programme.

It must be noted that the previous supervisor did shoddy job which resulted into cracks on Isimba dam.

“This is something that everyone kept as a secret,” an official added.

Realising it has lacks inexperienced personnel, UEGCL struck a deal with ESKOM and agreed to share workers especially Engineer and Divers.

This website understands that the role of divers on a dam is maintenance especially to ensure that the turbines keep running uninterrupted.

Unfortunately, UEGCL doesn’t have a skilled diver and had to hire from ESKOM.

“These divers alternated from Bujagali to Isimba,” said a seprate source in UEGCL.

The divers’ work at Isimba was to dive into a reservoir collect water hyacinth, and other deposits in the water which would damage the turbines.

“Usually they successfully did this job at a time Isimba had only one turbine switched on,” a source added.

The divers could also take pictures of the cracks on the dam under the water using motion sensor cameras to establish whether the cracks were growing.

On the fateful day (Wednesday), it must be remembered this was the first time the divers went underwater after the commissioning of the dam.

Skilled as they were, they dived into the water to execute their duties but the UEGCL workers in the control room who monitor what happens anywhere on the dam would shortly lose communication from the duo (Timothy and Simon).

On assessing what could have happened, the officials established the people in the control room forgot to close the flood gates which became very complicated for the two divers to contain the pressure of the flow of water and subsequently it eroded and threw them into turbines and were crashed.

“Yes the death was an accident but it could be attributed to negligence and inexperience,” said a source at UEGCL.

She added, “as a standard procedure, the crest gates must be closed so that where the divers are working there is no running water.”

By press time only one body had been retrieved. The search for another corpse is still on.

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