Sunday marked a year of the tragic death of two teenage rowers during a ferocious squall that capsized several boats in Rabindra Sarobar.
The rowing fraternity spent the day remembering Pushan Sadhukhan and Souradeep Chatterjee and taking stock of the safety mechanisms to prevent a repeat of the accident.
Pushan and Souradeep, both students of South Point High School, drowned in the Sarobar on May 21 last year when a nor’wester that clocked 90kmph struck Kolkata.
At Lake Club, a remembrance meeting was organised on Sunday morning. Rowers, past and present, members of the state rowing association and representatives of the rowing clubs along the Sarobar were present.
“There is no way that this loss can be compensated. But we should pledge that we will not allow a repeat of what happened. Safety should be part of the rowing DNA,” Subhasish Dasgupta, president of the West Bengal Rowing Association, said in his address.
On May 21 last year, Pushan and Souradeep were on a boat along with two other rowers. On Sunday, the two survivors attended the meet.
The meeting was followed by a safety audit and capsize drills in the Sarobar.
Rowing was suspended in the 193-acre water body — the only venue of the sport in Bengal — indefinitely after the accident. The sport came back after five months with a detailed list of safety protocols.
A list of standard operating procedures was prepared following several meetings attended by police and representatives of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (custodian of Sarobar), West Bengal Rowing Association and the rowing clubs — Lake Club, Calcutta Rowing Club and Bengal Rowing Club.
Petrol-powered rescue boats are now deployed in the waters to respond to any emergency. A safety officer has been entrusted with checking updates of the India Meteorological Department regularly. Lights, flags and a siren have been set up on the banks of the Sarobar.
A red flag and a red light, accompanied by a siren, means bad weather. No boat will be allowed to go into the water then and boats already in the water will have to return to the shore.
On Sunday, the safety measures were once again checked. A couple of capsize drills were held. It saw a boat overturn.
The rowers were asked to hold on to the boat until help arrived. It is not unusual for rowing boats to topple but they don't drown and rowers are taught to hold on to the boat.
“Experienced rowers are aware of this. We organised the capsize drills for young rowers,” said a member of Bengal Rowing Club.
The boats at the clubs are regularly checked for buoyancy, said members of the rowing fraternity.
At Calcutta Rowing Club (CRC), a summer camp is being held with more than 50 participants.
“The budding rowers were told in detail about the safety mechanisms that are in place,” said an official of CRC.