The Jakarta Post
A scoutmaster in Yogyakarta has been charged with negligence resulting in death after 10 junior high school students were killed in a flash flood that struck during a riverbank trek.
“Investigators named a scoutmaster, IYA, a suspect in the case,” Yogyakarta police spokesman Sr. Comr. Yulianto told reporters on Saturday, adding that the suspect was a physical education teacher at Turi 1 junior high school in Sleman.
“The suspect was charged under Article 359 of the Criminal Code, which pertains to negligence leading to death, as well as Article 360 on negligence resulting in injuries.”
The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The incident occurred on Friday when 249 seventh and eighth graders from Turi 1 junior high school went trekking along the banks of the Sembor River as part of a girl and boy scout activity.
The students started trekking from Dukuh hamlet in Donokerto village, Turi district, Sleman, and walked upstream for about 1 kilometer. During the trek, the river suddenly flooded and strong currents swept away many of the students.
Ten female students were killed, with the joint search and rescue (SAR) team recovering the last two bodies in the early hours of Sunday.
Yulianto said the scouts had been supervised by seven scoutmasters, one of whom remained at the school while the other six accompanied the students during their trek. One of the scoutmasters left the trek midway because of personal reasons and one more was waiting at the finish point.
“So, four scoutmasters were with the students that day,” Yulianto added.
The Yogyakarta Police have questioned the other three scoutmasters about the Sleman scout chapter's standard operating procedure for such high-risk scout activities. Several residents of Dukuh hamlet have also been questioned.
Yulianto said more suspects could be named in the case once investigators finished questioning the participating scouts.
“They are still in shock, so we haven’t questioned them.”
The police previously said that inadequate safety equipment and lack of planning were among the reasons the trek had ended in disaster.
“From the information we got, [the scouts] only had sticks with them; they didn’t bring any rope and went on the trip with only six scoutmasters,” Yogyakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Asep Suhendar told reporters on Saturday.
Turi 1 junior high school principal Tutik Nurdiana said she had not been aware of a trekking activity on Friday afternoon.
“Honestly, I didn’t know that [the students] would go on a river trek. The [scoutmasters] didn't tell me,” Tutik said, adding, however, that the school did hold scout activities every Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Esti Wijayanti, a member of the House of Representatives Commission X overseeing education and youth affairs who visited the site of the incident, said she would evaluate the school’s scout curriculum, particularly its safety procedures.
“The participants were not even asked whether they could swim,” she said.
According to Tita Vhasya Pradita, a 13-year-old girl scout who survived the flash flood, as the students were making their way toward the river, they were urged by several hamlet residents to stop their trek because of flooding in the north.
"I heard the scoutmaster say that it was OK because our lives were in God’s hands,” Tita said.
The Social Affairs Ministry’s director for natural disaster protection, Rachmat Koesnadi, visited Tita at the community health center (Puskesmas) where she was being treated. After meeting her, he told reporters that the ministry would provide Rp 15 million (US$1,088) in compensation for the family of the students who had died in the incident. (aql/hol)