FOUR schoolchildren from Kasana, a farming community near Wenchi, who were crossing River Tain to attend school on Tuesday got drowned when their canoe capsized in the middle of the river.
The deceased were among nine other pupils crossing the river from Kasana to Badu on the other side of the Tain river, where their school is located.
Their bodies have been retrieved and identified as Esther Ataa, 15; Mercy Ayiribo, 13; Martin, 9 and Nana Akwasi, 16, who was paddling the canoe at the time of the accident.
In a bizarre twist to the development, the Omanhene of Badu, Nana Boakye Yiadom II, is alleged to have asked the bereaved families to pay GH¢500 each for the performance of purification rituals before the bodies would be released for burial.
At the time of filing the story yesterday, the bodies were still lying on the banks of the river on the Badu side, as the chief was allegedly waiting for the families and their money.
The victims of the canoe accident were the second batch of pupils said to be crossing the river to school that day after a first batch had crossed to safety.
The others were rescued by a diver, Kwasi Boakye, who told the Daily Graphic that there was a heavy rain the previous day, which led to increase in the volume of water in the river.
One of the survivors who gave her name as Janet confirmed the story and added that the canoe was normally paddled by one of the male pupils to their final destination every day.