Family members, friends gather at their homes in large numbers; relatives demand probe into accident

A pall of gloom descended over Urappakam and T. Nagar on Sunday after the bodies of four persons, who died in Saturday’s boat accident in Alappuzha, were brought back to their respective homes.

While the bodies of Sudheshini (32) and Ilakkiya (4) were taken to Athanur Village in Urappakam, those of Rohini (37) and Sushmita (12) were taken to their homes in T. Nagar. Four ambulances carried the victims’ bodies all the way from the government hospital near Punnamada. The ambulances started from Kerala at 7 p.m. on Saturday and reached Athanur on Sunday around 3 p.m. and T. Nagar, at 4.15 p.m.

A revenue department official from Alappuzha, who came in one of the ambulances, said the government had already announced a probe into the incident and assured that the bereaved families would be adequately compensated.

The entire Athanur village panchayat gathered around the house of C. Pandithurai in M.G.R. Nagar on Sunday afternoon after the bodies of his wife Sudheshini and daughter Ilakkiya were brought back.

“It is so obvious that norms have been violated. Over three years ago, a huge number of people drowned in Thekkady. The Kerala government obviously has not learned its lessons,” said M. Manikandan, a relative of Mr. Pandithurai.

It was only around Deepavali last year that Pandithurai helped his wife Sudheshini, who had an MBA. degree, set up a textile store. According to her relatives, she had worked in Valasarawakkam earlier, but due to lack of avenues in Athanur, around 15 kilometres from Tambaram, she preferred being a homemaker. She took up the recent venture (the textile store) only recently and was excited about it, relatives said.

According to B. Suresh, another relative, Mr. Pandithurai, after the accident, held his son Inbasekaran on his left waist, while pulling out many others from the water. He even broke the glass window panes of the capsized houseboat open to rescue his colleagues and their family members, Mr. Suresh added.

Appeal to follow safety norms

Mr. Venkatesan appealed to the tourism departments of all states to follow stringent safety norms to ensure that no such incident takes place hereafter. The loss of innocent lives could be felt only by the nearest and close relatives, he said.

Mr. Manikandan, a resident of Korattur, said that no friends, colleagues or relatives would be in a position to make a spot visit at the scene of tragedy and hence they depended entirely on the Government of Kerala to conduct a detailed and thorough probe and arrive at the exact cause of the accident.

Meanwhile, on Saravana Street, situated off Chevalier Sivaji Ganesan Road in T. Nagar, a huge crowd was seen on Sunday evening. They were waiting for the bodies of Rohini (37) and Sushmita (12). Around 4.15 p.m., a red volvo bus with a Kerala registration number turned into the street followed by three ambulances also from Alappuzha. Manoj (45), Rohini’s husband, was overcome with emotion as he walked straight into his apartment. The bodies were brought in two ambulances.

Most of the relatives and friends, especially those of Sushmita, were in tears when the bodies were taken into the house.

Manoj runs a franchisee of the Hearing Aid Centre in Nungambakkam. Pandithurai, who came with his wife Sudheshini, daughter Ilakkiya and three-year-old son Inbasekaran, also worked for the same firm.

The firm had organised the trip to Kerala for employees and their families as part of annual recreation. The accident happened when they attempted to get into a houseboat by stepping onto another boat. The boat capsized and all the passengers fell into the lake. While four of them drowned, the rest were rescued.

Five passengers who were seriously injured were admitted to a government hospital in Alappuzha, and on Sunday they all came back to Chennai, with doctors and nurses accompanying them.

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