A dream holiday in Kerala ended in tragedy for two families living in Block C of Paschim Vihar, west Delhi.
The Sharmas and the Jains had booked a package tour to Kerala. The ten-member group had left on the day of Dussehra, Monday, for the trip. On Wednesday, when their boat overturned in the Periyar River in Kerala, six of them drowned.
Vivek Sharma (45), who runs a business, survived. But his 20-year-old son Parth Sharma and wife Sangeeta Sharma, senior manager with State Bank of India, died in the accident.
Rahul Sharma, who is related to the family, said: “Sangeeta’s sister Sandhya Jain, her husband Pradeep Jain died.”
Pradeep Jain was the vice-president of Panacea Biotech, a pharmaceutical company.
They were among the 12 Delhi residents who were killed in the Kerala boat tragedy. Their boat sank after cruising for five kilometres. It had left the boarding point at 4:00 pm on Wednesday.
Parth Sharma was a second year engineering student at the Delhi College of Engineering. He reportedly was planning to go abroad after his graduation to complete his masters there.
Mother of Sangeeta and Sandhya, Vimla Jain, too was killed. Sandhya Jain’s daughter Shruti (30) too died, while her husband, sister Nidhi (26) and her brother-in-law Bala Dutt survived. They were being brought back to Delhi in a special flight from Kerala.
Another family from Delhi was wiped out in the tragedy.
The Kaura family lived in Ekta Apartment — middle-income group flats — at Jwala Heri in Paschim Vihar.
Arun Kaura (40), a senior manager with a pharmaceutical company, his wife Renu Kaura (38) and daughters — Kanika (24) and Sudhi (19) — were killed.
Their neighbour in Delhi said Arun Kaura’s family was yet to be told about the deaths. “We do not know if they will be able to handle it,” he said.
Kaura’s brother was killed in an accident last year.
A Janakpuri family lost their son. Harvinder Singh Rawat (32) was married a year ago. His wife Deepti has survived.
None had lifejackets on
The Kerala boat mishap toll has risen to 44, with Navy divers recovering eight more bodies on Thursday.
The state government has ordered a judicial probe into the mishap and announced Rs 5 lakh (half a million rupees) relief for each victim. The bodies have been sent for autopsy to Kochi, 200 km from here.
A Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) boat, the Jala Kanyaka, capsized in the Periyar river in Idukki district in the north-eastern part of the state with 76 tourists on board on Wednesday.
Among the dead, 12 are from Delhi, nine from Tamil Nadu, six from West Bengal, four from Andhra Pradesh, three from Karnataka and three each from Punjab and Kerala. Three bodies were yet to be identified.
This is the third major boat tragedy in recent years in the state. In 2007, 15 school children and three teachers were drowned in the same river, while in 2002, 29 persons were killed in a backwater resort in Kumarakom (Kottayam).
Questions are being raised over boat employees flouting the safety measures. At the time of the accident, none of the passengers were wearing lifejackets, although it is mandatory for all boat cruises.
KTDC chairman Cherian Philip said, “More than a dozen new lifejackets were dumped in the engine room. Some of them were still in their packs.”
Victor Samuel, who was captaining the Jala Kanyaka, said he had warned passengers not to rush to one side and upset the balance of the boat. But he admitted that he had only six months’ experience in handling passenger boats.
A British couple, who were on the boat, said Samuel was rash and negotiated the curves in the river at a very high speed.