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River splash turns fatal

- 14-year-old drowns during secret dip with classmates

Jamshedpur, July 12: A river escapade turned tragic for a group of boys bunking school today when one among them downed in the Kharkhai water near Baroda ghat at Bagbera in Jamshedpur.

But instead of alerting 14-year-old Kundan Prasad’s family or the school about the mishap, his friends, fearing scolding, went quietly to attend classes and came out with the truth only after the teacher caught them. By then, more than an hour had passed and although two underwater rescue experts were pressed into action, the body could not be found.

Kundan, the eldest son of snack vendor Valmiki Prasad, used to study in Class IX of Indira Vidya Jyoti High School, a private cradle affiliated to Jharkhand Academic Council, near Bagbera Railway Colony. A resident of Gandhinagar, Kundan and the other teens — Sidharth Mishra (14), Dipak Kumar (14), Rohit Prasad (15) and Rajesh Singh (14) — used to frequently skip morning classes and visit Kharkhai for a dip.

Saturday was no different.

Instead of attending school, which starts at 10am, the five boys went to Baroda ghat around 10.30am. They walked on the weir that extends till the middle of the river and then jumped in from a height of around 20 feet.

Some even climbed back on the weir and sat there when all of a sudden, Kundan got pulled in by the current near some rocks while his friends watched in dismay. The boy was carried away in the water for nearly 50 metres before disappearing.

Helpless and scared, the friends left the spot in a hurry even though some local residents who witnessed the incident protested. They went to school, which is about 1.5km away, and acted as if everything was normal.

“We saw the four around noon. They were behaving strangely and their clothes and legs were wet. We suspected that something was wrong and checked the attendance register to find that they had missed the first few classes along with Kundan. On being interrogated, they broke down and admitted that they had bunked classes for a fun session at Kharkhai and that Kundan had drowned,” said school principal D.K. Mishra.

The principal and other teachers rushed to the river at 12.30pm and found a huge crowd already gathered at Baroda ghat. Police were also informed.

“Soon after we learnt about the mishap, we arranged two underwater rescue divers from Tata Steel and a private agency. But the body is yet to be found,” said Bagbera police station’s officer-in-charge Rajiv Ranjan.

Principal Mishra said the boys admitted that they used to frequently bathe in Kharkhai even though they didn’t know swimming well.

According to Kundan’s uncle, Banwari Prasad, the teen had left home for school as usual around 9.30am.

“Some local residents informed us about his drowning around 12.30pm. We didn’t know that he used to frequent Baroda ghat though he was fond of swimming,” Banwari added.

Local JVM leader Kishore Yadav said the area near the weir was a danger spot, where drowning incidents take place every year. “Though most stick to the banks, a daring few venture deep into the water even after knowing that it’s a mishap zone,” he added.

Kundan has three siblings — elder sister Gudia Lal, younger sister Sony Kumari and younger brother Chandan Prasad.