|Saikat Kundu died at a climbing camp in Sikkim. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya
A Howrah youth who was working as a scuba diving instructor in the Andamans died on Sunday morning in the Kanchenjunga base camp area around Dzongri in West Sikkim where he was doing an advanced mountaineering course with 21 others.
Saikat Kundu, a 25-year-old resident of Andul in Howrah, had joined the course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling last week.
He had not informed his family about going to Sikkim for the mountaineering course. “His mother was not aware of it. She didn’t want him to go to Darjeeling because of the political unrest there,” uncle Samir Paul said.
Saikat had gone to Sikkim for a basic mountaineering course more than a year ago.
“He was here since its off-season in the Andamans. Around 8.30am in the morning we received a call from the mountaineering institute and were told that Saikat has died. The reason for his death is not clear. We are leaving for Sikkim,” said Saikat’s cousin Debraj Paul late on Sunday evening.
Mother Kasturi has also rushed to Sikkim.
His father Samir Krishna had died seven years ago.
Family members said Saikat had left for Darjeeling on September 14 after spending a month in Calcutta and was supposed to be back on October 13 for Durga Puja. He had been giving scuba diving training to tourists in the Andamans for the past three years.
They said Saikat was agile and fit and had participated in several state-level weightlifting and bodybuilding competitions.
Asim Mondal, mountaineer and a sailing instructor at Sea Explorer’s Institute in Calcutta, said he knew Saikat since 2006.
“He was planning to scale the Everest in 2018. This course was probably a part of the preparation,” said Mondal who had trained Saikat in rowing and diving.
An adventure sports enthusiast, he had gone on a sailing expedition from Calcutta to Visakhapatnam in 2009.
Saikat was one of the divers in the rescue team that searched for survivors in the container ship disaster near Haldia port a few years ago.
Though the exact cause of death will be known after autopsy, sources said Saikat might have died of mountain sickness.
Mondal said his former ward could have died because he was not properly acclimatised to the high altitude.
Uncle Paul said: “We were told that Saikat was down with fever for the past three days. Police and the mountaineering institute’s officials said he could have suffered a cardiac arrest while coming down to Yuksom.”
“We were told that he suffered some illness last night and was being brought down to Yuksom but unfortunately he died early this morning during transit. Our officials have rushed to Sikkim and the family members from Calcutta have been informed,” said Brajesh, accounts officer of the institute.
He said the 28-day advanced training course would have ended on October 6.
D.B. Chhetri, the superintendent of police of West Sikkim district, said the body has not reached Yuksom till Sunday evening. “The body is being brought by foot,” he said.