Local residents gather near the banks of Damodar where Rishu Kumar drowned in Bokaro on Wednesday. (Pankaj Singh)
The thrill of enjoying a splash in the river after a good game of footfall cost a Bokaro schoolboy dear when he drowned in the Damodar on Wednesday morning.
Rishu Kumar (14), a Class IX student of MGM School, did not know swimming just like his three classmates who had accompanied him to the river, about 6km from Bokaro steel city.
His body was fished out around 1.30pm.
According to police, Rishu and his friends Rahul Kumar, Aditya Kumar and Atul Kumar, all residents of Sector IV-E, had been playing football at a local ground. This had become their morning ritual ever since school shut after annual exams.
After the game ended around 7.30am, the teens decided not to go back home and instead headed to river Damodar located on the border of Bokaro steel city and Chandrapura township.
“The boys didn’t know the exact location of the river, except for the fact that it was near Sector IX. But they cycled their way after asking for directions from acquaintances. They also chose not to inform their families lest they were told to head back,” said officer-in-charge of Sector IX police station Rajesh Rajak.
After cycling for about 90 minutes, the four reached Damodar around 9am.
However, they decided not to go deep into the river as none knew swimming and chose to stay near one of the pillars of the bridge, built to connect Bokaro with Chandrapura township, where the water level was barely five feet.
“We were in the water for hardly 10-15 minutes when suddenly Rishu moved ahead and simply vanished. Initially, we thought he was trying underwater swimming, but when he didn’t surface after a few seconds, we started searching for him,” said Rahul, narrating their experience to police.
Unable to find him, the three friends panicked and raised an alarm, drawing the attention of some youths swimming nearby. They soon rushed to the point where Rishu was last seen, but could not find him.
When the searches yielded no result for around half an hour, some people in the crowd that had gathered by then called up Sector IX police, who rushed to the spot and launched a fresh hunt.
The body was eventually fished out about 25 feet from the spot where Rushu went missing.
Officer-in-charge Rajak said that though the water level was low at the point where the boys were swimming, Rishu appeared to have been sucked into one of the many well-like chasms that lie hidden in the riverbed.
Rishu’s father Ramanuj Prasad, a businessman dealing in cosmetics and dairy products, and mother Nilu Devi were inconsolable.
“We were in the house, not knowing that they had gone to Damodar. I wish my son had informed me. I would have never let him go. Rishu was our only son. We had put him in one of the best schools with the hope that he would make us proud one day,” rued the businessman.
MGM School held a condolence meeting to remember Rishu. “We are shocked. Rishu was a hardworking, sincere student who scored above-average marks. He was very disciplined and friendly with his classmates,” said principal Jacob Thomas.