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Woman dies in Teesta raft capsize

Kalimpong, June 1: A tourist from Mumbai died after a raft she had boarded, along with 11 others, capsized in the Teesta at Chitray this afternoon.

Although three rafters, who were with the tourists, pulled everyone out of the swollen river, the 37-year-old Rashila Thakkar died while being taken to hospital.

The entourage, while on the way to Gangtok, had taken a raft ride on May 24. “Today, while returning, the tourists stopped at Melli and boarded the raft again. Five kilometres down the stream, the raft lost its balance and turned upside down at Chitray,” said K.B. Dorjee, the additional superintendent of police of Kalimpong.

Soon, the three helpers on board brought all the 12 people to the shore.

“Thakkar’s condition was precarious when she was taken out of water. The rescuers took all the injured to a health centre at Rambhi, located around 7-10km from the accident site. But on the way, Thakkar breathed her last,” said the officer.

Dorjee said he suspected that there was a malfunction in the life jacket she was wearing and that was the cause of the death.

All others in the team were provided with first aid and they are out of danger now, said police.

The body of Thakkar was sent to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital for post-mortem.

The other members of her group have gone to Siliguri.

Sources said Kalimpong police had suo motu registered a case of negligence and the three rafters were arrested by the Rambhi police outpost.

Sukbir Lama, a raft owner at Chitray, 14km from here, was among those who were present when the rescue operation was going on.

“Rafts overturning during rides is frequent. When such incidents happen, those on board cling to ropes and float on the river with the help of life jackets they would be wearing. The guides set the craft right and help the tourists clamber onto it,” said Sukbir.

He said today’s victim was insisting on wearing a plastic raincoat under the life jacket, despite being told by the guides not to.

“So, when she fell into the water, the raincoat might have completely covered her head and I think, that proved to be fatal as she could not breathe,” he added.

The raft owner said today’s ride was not part of the tour package. A tourist is charged between Rs 300 and Rs 350 for a ride and each raft carries 10-12 people on board.

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