Nine students and two adults drowned after the ferry carrying at least 43 passengers, mostly students returning home for the Mid-Autumn Festival weekend, capsized on Friday afternoon, said an official with the Shaoyang county safety bureau in Hunan province on Saturday. He only gave his surname, Liu.
Liu said workers are still searching for at three missing people after 16 were rescued with injuries. Thirteen other passengers managed to swim to safety after the boat capsized.
The two boat owners have been detained by police, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday. It said the ferry capsized after it was blocked by iron cables in the Fuyi River.
All of the students killed were taking the ferry chartered by primary and middle schools in the nearby Tantianshi town back home, where they planned to spend the holiday weekend with their families, Xinhua reported.
Police are investigating the cause of the accident, but witnesses said overloading could have contributed to the boat sinking, the report said.