A flotilla of recreational boats and jet skis had rushed to the scene, pulling people from the boat as it went down and avoiding an even deadlier tragedy. Dramatic videos circulating on social media show the turquoise-and-yellow-trimmed party boat rocking back and forth as people crawled down from a fourth-deck roof as it sank in a matter of minutes. Survivors described hearing a loud explosion near the men's bathroom that knocked out power a few minutes after the boat began its cruise around the giant lake. As water flooded on board, pressure built and people were sucked under by the sinking ship.
"Those on the first and second decks sank immediately," survivor Lorena Salazar told local media. "All we could do was scream and call for help ... it was completely chaotic."
In the absence of a passenger list, authorities have been relying on family numbers and survivors to report their whereabouts. On Tuesday the number of people missing was down to 13. Of those who survived the crash, three remain hospitalized but are out of danger, said Margarita Moncada, the head of the disaster-relief agency in Antioquia state. A few dozen scuba divers were working Monday in hour-long shifts, looking to sweep for trapped bodies in the frigid, algae-filled waters around the wreckage at a depth of over 30 meters (100 feet). Moncada said the hardest part for scuba divers is to safely search the area around the first deck of the boat.
It's unclear what caused the boat to sink. Some survivors and people who witnessed the tragedy unfold from the nearby shore said the boat appeared to be overloaded. But President Juan Manuel Santos, who traveled to Guatape to oversee search efforts, said it was sailing well below capacity. None of the passengers was wearing a life vest.