Rated as an excellent swimmer, Gunendran had good grasp of water flow

A fireman of Srirangam fire station drowned in the Cauvery river here on Sunday while trying to rescue a cow that was being washed away in the river. Forty-six-year-old A. Gunendran, rated as an excellent swimmer by his superiors, was transferred to Srirangam fire station one-and-half years ago from Tiruchi fire station.

Fire and Rescue Services Department officials here said Srirangam fire station received a ‘rescue call’ around 1 p.m. seeking assistance to rescue three cows that had got trapped in the Cauvery river at Geethapuram near Mangamma Nagar.

A team of fire fighters, armed with necessary equipment such as ropes, life buoys, and jackets rushed to the spot. Gunendran was one among the fire fighters involved in the rescue mission.

Upon entering the river, the fire fighters managed to rescue two cows trapped a few feet from the river bank. The other cow had by then strayed into the centre portion of the river prompting the fire fighters to swim towards that spot. The animal was trapped about 200 to 300 feet from the river bank.

Braving the sheer force of the water flow at that moment, Gunendran swam deep inside the river with the other fire fighters tailing him, a senior official of the department said.

Even as Gunendran was trying to rescue the cow, the animal that was apparently in a frightened state suddenly pressed him down. In the sudden impact, Gunendran lost his balance and got trapped in the whirlpool and drowned, the official said.

Upon noticing Gunendran raise his hands while drowning, the other fighters with help from safety volunteers immediately swam towards the spot and pulled him up.

He was brought to the river bank where the fire fighters carried out the cardiopulmonary resuscitation procedure in their desperate bid to save the fireman who had by then consumed too much water. Moments later, he was rushed to Srirangam government hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“We all feel extremely sad that the department has lost a well-trained fireman, who was also the best swimmer,” said Melky Raj, Station Fire Officer, Srirangam fire station.

Gunendran was a committed and dedicated fire fighter, said Syed Mohamed Sha, Divisional Fire Officer, Tiruchi, adding that it was really unfortunate that such a tragedy had struck the fireman who had complete grasp of the water flow.

A few days ago, Gunendran was deployed for rescue duty at Amma Mandapam bathing ghat along the Cauvery in Srirangam on the ‘Mahalaya Amavasya day’ when a large number of devotees thronged to pay obeisance to their forefathers, Mr. Sha said.

This is the first time in Tiruchi fire division encompassing eight fire stations in the district that a fire fighter lost his life at the call of duty in the recent past.

Father of two children and a native of Budalur in Thanjavur district, Gunendran had joined the department in 1996.

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