The 21-year-old lady teacher, who died along with nine primary school students in the van mishap in Nagapattinam district on Thursday, helped save seven children before drowning, attempting to rescue more.
When the van plunged into the temple pond at Kathiripulam village near Vedaranyam in the district, the driver Mahendran, cleaner Subramanian and the teacher Suganthi came out of the vehicle breaking glass windows. They immediately started pulling out the children through the window, eyewitnesses said.
Though the driver, who was reportedly talking over his mobile when the mishap took place, fled fearing public reprisal, Suganthi and Subramanian managed to save about seven children, they said.
Finding that more children were getting drowned, Suganthi, who did not know how to swim, jumped into the water to rescue them and drowned, they added.
Villagers and police later fished out her body along with the bodies of nine children. Suganthi could have survived if she had not plunged into the water to rescue the children, eyewitnesses said.