Siddhartha disappearance: Search operations called off late at night

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Hanumantaraya and other officers at Nethravati bridge, where V.G. Siddhartha was last seen, in Mangaluru on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: H.S. Manjunath

As the skies darkened under the setting sun on Tuesday, emergency lights were brought in for rescue teams that had been dredging the Nethravati river since 7 a.m. in a massive search operation for Cafe Coffee Day founder V.G. Siddhartha. He was last seen on the bridge over the river on Monday evening.

With the limited range of the lights, teams from various agencies searched a 200-metre area of the river between the four-lane Nethravati bridge and the railway bridge. But visibility was low and by 9 p.m., the search operations were called off for the day on account of unavoidable tidal conditions.

“We will resume at daybreak on Wednesday. We decided against an overnight operation because of the risk involved for the personnel,” said Deputy Commissioner Sasikanth Senthil.

By nightfall, the crowd — of both curious onlookers and acquaintances of Mr. Siddhartha — had thinned. Halapppa Gowda, manager of his coffee estate in Chikkamagaluru and a former classmate of the entrepreneur, had come to Nethravati bridge along with a few close friends. “We were shocked to hear the news and rushed here,” said Mr. Halappa said, who was at the spot by 8 a.m.

Among those who accompanied Mr. Gowda were Bhadruddin, a classmate of Mr. Siddhartha who owns a coffee estate. “I am sad to hear about my friend’s mysterious disappearance. I can scarcely believe this,” he said.

MLA for Sringeri Raje Gowda spoke about his 30-year-old friendship with Mr. Siddhartha even as Mangaluru legislator U.T. Khader, his younger brother U.T. Fareed, and former Bantwal MLA B. Ramanath Rai also visited the spot.

V.G. Siddhartha's and Café Coffee Day's journey through the years

Locals pitch in

Police Commissioner Sandeep Patil said that apart from the city police team of 200 or so personnel, members of the National Disaster Response Force, Coast Guard, Home Guards, Fire and Emergency Services, and Coastal Security Police are involved in the search operation. Local fishermen are cooperating with the district administration by putting their boats into service. The police also took help of Praveen Malte, a expert diver from Udupi who had come to the spot.

The city police blocked two lanes of the four-lane Nethravati bridge, which is about 3 km from the river mouth. While immediately pressing into service a team of divers from Bengre and Tannirbhavi, the police went about requisitioning the services of the NDRF, Home Guards, and Fire and Emergency Services.

Following a request from the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada, a team of divers from the Indian Naval Base was despatched by road to Mangaluru, according to the PRO of INS Kadamba, which is based in Karwar.

While ICGS Rajdoot patrolled the old Mangalore Port and maintained a close watch on the harbour mouth, a hovercraft (H-198) undertook search in the river and also supported the operations of three Coast Guard diving teams and other agencies involved in the search effort. ICGS Savitribai Phule has been kept on standby, said S.S. Dasila, Commandant of Coast Guard of Karnataka.

The response of the Coastal Security Police was also delayed because of mechanical problems in its surveillance boats.

The operation was stopped for a while in the afternoon owing to a brief spell of heavy rain. Meanwhile, police teams also searched for Mr. Siddhartha in hospitals, hotels and other locations in the city.


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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 9:11:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/siddhartha-disappearance-search-operations-called-off-late-at-night/article28763940.ece

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