NAMCHI, 11 April: The bodies of couple from Namchi, Prahlad Rai and his wife Lata Rai, missing since they left here for Siliguri on 02 April, were finally recovered today.
Poonam Pradhan, Assistant Engineer, Irrigation Department, who, as the co-ordinator of Sri Satya Sai Sewa Sangathan, Sikkim, has been assisting the search operations, informs that Mr. Rai’s dead body was recovered from near the NHPC dam at Kalijhora along National Highway 31 A at around 9:30 a.m. The vehicle in which the couple was travelling on 02 April, it may be recalled was recovered from the Teesta near Seti Pool [a few kms short of Kalijhora] only a few days ago.
The dead body of Mrs. Rai was discovered in an inexplicable coincidence later in the day.
After Mr. Rai’s dead body was recovered, it was sent for autopsy to Siliguri Medical College. This, after the procedural formalities were completed at Sevoke Police Station. Even as Mr. Rai’s body was at the medical college, friends and family were scouring the Teesta for signs of his wife even as a group was awaiting the completion of the autopsy so that they escort the body home.
As this group awaited the doctors to finish, they learnt that the Phansidewa Polcie Station had sent in a dead body of an unidentified woman to the same hospital this morning. This dead body had washed up at the Mahananda Barrage under the Phansidewa Police Station’s jurisdiction. Initially the family did not pay any heed to this information beyond offering sympathies for the unclaimed body. However, later in the day, they decided to see the body in the outside chance that it might be of Mrs. Rai.
Their fears proved right. The dead body in the mortuary was of Mrs. Lata Rai. The body was identified by her son who was at the hospital in connection with the autopsy at the time.
A group of family members then proceeded to the Phansidewa Police Station under Kurseong sub-division to inform them that the body they had brought to the hospital earlier in the day had been identified. They also extended their gratitude and thanks towards the Officer in Charge at Phansidewa Police Station for having taken the body out of the river and sent it to the mortuary.
The OC handed over the personal effects and items recovered from the body, among which were gold ornaments and a wrist watch. A locket with Satya Sai Baba’s photograph was also handed over to the family members. The wristwatch recovered from the body of Mrs. Lata Rai by the Phansidewa PS personnel had stopped at 6.27, most probably on impact at the time of the accident. The couple, it may be recalled, had left Namchi on the afternoon of 02 April and are recorded as having exited from Melli shortly after 5 in the evening.
The post-mortem on both bodies was carried out today and the bodies have been brought home to Namchi. The funeral is scheduled for Thursday, 12 April.
Mourning siblings blame BRO negligence for accident
The son and daughter of the deceased couple, still distraught over their loss, today revealed that someone had seen the car go off the road on the evening of 02 April and even informed the Sevoke Police Station. Shockingly, the personnel at Sevoke PS ignored the report claiming that the area where the accident was reported to have taken place did not fall under their jurisdiction!
One will never know if a more humane response from the cops at Sevoke would have ensured a different ending for this unfortunate incident. The family has been at their wits ends since 02 April, grappling with suspicions of foul play and the trauma of uncertainty about the fate of the parents.
They deceased couple’s children are blaming BRO, contending that negligent work by the Border Roads Organisation and the deplorable condition of the roads led to the accident.
They point out that the accident occurred a spot where the BRO has marked a slight diversion at a section where the road has caved in. This diversion is however not prominently marked and can be easily missed in the twilight hours, which is when the accident took place; the couple obviously did not see the markers at this spot and went off the road.
The brother and sister believe that their parents met with the accident because of BRO negligence and have called on people to speak out strongly against such oversights because such a fate could befall anyone who uses roads maintained by BRO, in Sikkim and elsewhere.
Then, there is the problem of rash and inconsiderate driving on the highway with oncoming traffic seldom using dippers and blinding people with their high beams.