Death Trap
Death Trap | 2014-03-12 19:15:00

There is nothing unique in the picture. Just another innocent looking water stream inviting you to take a swim. But there is a horrifying story behind this.

This place is close to Sangam, the place where Cauvery river meets Arkavati in Mekedatu, 95km away from Bangalore [1]. The water is shallow, wind is breezy, and weather is good. Its frequented by tourists. But one more thing - DO NOT GO THERE!

Why? It may be your last one!


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26 FEB 2014
An average afternoon in office, I received a call from an unknown number. A deeply worried person on the other side wanted to know about the capabilities of NETRA – our Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. I could sense the urgency and a hint of expecting hope in his voice so I went on to ask him what the matter was. What he told me next made an instant unknown connection with him and a desire to help him.

He narrated the incident to me. His close family member, Sahil Jalan, aged 21 had gone for an internship to Bangalore and went out with friends for a weekend getaway to Sangam. Like many others, the friend group slowly & carefully went into the knee deep water. And then in the next flash of a moment everything changed for everyone forever. Sahil slipped and could not recover. A few seconds later he was seen 3 meters away but went down into the river and never came up. Police Force, NDMF as well as IAF choppers were deployed to locate any signs of the boy to no avail [2].

While he was narrating the story to me, I knew we had to do something for him. I promised him to call back in half an hour. ideaForge team sat down for this peculiar situation at hand and unanimously decided to offer all help. Later, we found out that the boy is a student of IIT Kharagpur. The hopes were low but efforts had to be put in.

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By early morning, our team reached the spot with NETRA. The first look of the spot was deceiving. How could one drown in this calm shallow water stream? This and a lot more than meets the eye was answered over the next 2 days.

The team sprung into action and started the mammoth task of scouting downstream carefully. Back to back flights were conducted over two days to cover 6km in detail along the river but no luck. High-resolution aerial pictures were clicked and analyzed. Video footage was recorded. Some signs were spotted on the first evening but the difficult terrain and poor light conditions made it impossible for the disaster team to confirm it by physically reaching the spot. By next morning the signs had already vanished. Further recce flights could not reveal any more signs and the operation was aborted later in the evening. Till this day we have not received any information about his whereabouts.

Some Facts

Over 250 people have died in this area last year after drowning [3]. We were advised not to stay after dark because the river is full of crocodiles & elephants frequent the place in the evenings for water. We were also told that the water may look calm from top but the flow is very high in the lower layers which can instantly suck in a person if he loses control. The bed of the river does not have a gradual slope but sudden troughs which can go much deeper within a feet. The team also observed that there was not even a sign of a 'signboard’ close to the site.

The question that has been intriguing our mind since then is that - How could the administration allow this to happen? 250 lives in one year! Why didn’t the administration wake up when the toll was smaller.. 5, 10, 20 … or even now.

250 is a shame!

Making money in misery

While our team was carrying out their task, several disturbing things came to their notice. They were told by villagers that over the time, some local villagers have found spots in downstream where the dead bodies of the drowned people are most commonly stuck. The modus-operandi of some heartless opportunists is to drill holes in the dead body’s abdomen & tie it with heavy stones so as to avoid floatation and being detected visually from outside. Later, I figured the reason for drilling holes is to release the gases being produced within the body once the decaying starts which can lead to floatation.

Once the families of the victim lose hope after trying to locate their kin they go back disheartened. These opportunists then contact them and negotiate a deal with them to exchange the body for money and threaten them not to inform the police. The grief-ridden family members are left with no choice but to concede to their demands. We were told that the usual amount of money starts at INR 50,000 and can go upwards based on the family’s affluence.

In this case also, some mysterious informations from local villagers indirectly pointed to the possibility of a similar thing happening.

Appeal

The purpose of this post is to make an appeal:

1. To people: Please avoid this place at least until proper steps are taken by the administration to ensure safety. A small precaution can avoid an unfortunate incident. To the adventure buffs; I am certainly not against adventure but I do believe in ‘Informed Adventure’ and being aware what situation one is into. Being ignorant or naïve in assessment of the situation is what I believe leads one into an unwanted situation. Share this with your loved ones.

2. To the administration: Please take notice of this death trap & take immediate actions to avoid people falling prey to the disaster. It can start with smallest of the things like

  • Installing properly visible signboards at all places close to this area and clearly mentioning the number of incidents that have taken place here.
  • Creating awareness through newspaper, tv, sms and all possible mediums.
  • Increasing vigilance at the hot spots
  • Cracking down on the opportunist villagers
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I would like to thank my team mates Deshraj & Ashwin for putting in the efforts and supporting the situation at hand.

References:
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mekedaatu
  2. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bangalore/IAF-copter-joins-search-for-drowned-IIT- boy/articleshow/31014228.cms
  3. http://www.bangaloremirror.com/bangalore/others/Tourist-spots-turn-disaster- zones/articleshow/30956741.cms


 

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