In Kerala for trekking, 5 Delhi NCC cadets drown

Dilshad Alam

Five NCC cadets from Delhi, who were part of a national trekking camp at Malayattoor forest division in Ernakulam district, drowned in Periyar river on Wednesday afternoon.

Police identified the cadets as Muhammed Zeeshan (18), Tabish Baqrri (18), Dilshad Alam (21), Gulvez Ahmed (18) and Hemant Kumar (16). The bodies will be flown back to Delhi in a special defence aircraft early on Thursday.

Defence Minister A K Antony expressed "profound grief" and offered his "deepest condolences" to the parents of the cadets. An inquiry has been ordered and the Minister announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 3.5 lakh for the family of each cadet who died.

Nearly 700 cadets from various states are participating in the week-long trekking camp, which began on December 23. According to NCC group commander Commodore Jaison Thomas, 54 cadets from Delhi NCC directorate and 43 from Kerala were in the team that met with the accident.

In its statement, NCC said one of the five had gone to the river to wash his hands and slipped into the water. The others drowned while trying to rescue their fellow cadet.

"According to details available, during lunch break, one cadet went to wash his hands and slipped. To save the cadet, the others jumped into the water and drowned due to high current," NCC spokesperson said.

But a few officials said a group of trekkers deviated from the set route and moved to the river to click photographs. "River was not part of trekking route. Others (officials and other cadets) warned them against going towards the river. Some of them came back, while a few did not. At first, two persons slipped into the water while taking snaps. The other three fell in while trying to save the two,'' an official said.

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