What started as a trip to rehearse their roles for the Navaratri celebrations ended in a tragedy as three boys drowned and two others were feared dead in the Phalguni (popularly called Gurupur river) here on Sunday.

While the bodies of Prajwal (14), Kalander (17) and Akshith (14) were recovered at Padukodi near Bangra Kulur, their friends, Rakshith (16) and Rajesh (17) are yet to be traced. Search teams called off the efforts around 7 p.m., because of fading light and persistent rain.

Around 3.30 p.m., eight boys from Kodikal Katte, around 1.5 km by walk from the banks of the river, arrived there to practice Hulivesha. After an hour of practising in the sand, Rakshith went for a bath, while the others were by the banks washing up.

“After a while, we saw him flailing his hands and signalling for help, and five others jumped in. Four of them too started struggling with the currents, and I could not spot them anymore,” said Muthuraja, one of the boys who had been with them.

The spot of the incident is at the bend of the river, opposite GMR factory at Thannirbhavi.

Prajwal and Akshith were studying in ninth standard and Rakshith in tenth standard at Ganapathi High School in the city. Kalander and Rajesh did odd jobs in the city, said Chetan, a neighbour.

Neighbours of the five children said they came from families of daily-wage workers and fishermen.

“Every year, Prajwal, Rakshith and Rajesh participate in the Hulivesha at the festivities at Urva Chilimbi, and they had also taken part in the recent Ganesh Chathurti celebrations. Kalander and Akshith were not performers, but as they were free, they decided to accompany the team,” said Avinash, a neighbour.

Mangalore South MLA J.R. Lobo said that as soon as the FIR was filed, the families of the five would be given compensation of Rs. 1 lakh.

A case has been registered at the Kavoor police station.

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Two boys drown in Phalguni in MangaloreOctober 14, 2012