Parents of sailor who died in Cyclone Nilam kill selves

The parents of a sailor, who drowned when his vessel was grounded by Cyclone Nilam last year, committed suicide on Friday morning. They were reportedly anguished that neither the shipping firm nor the government had come to their aid after the death of their only son. Friday, incidentally, was their wedding anniversary.

K N Kothandapani, 56, and S K Bharathi, 50, were unable to come to terms with the death of their 23-year-old son Niranjan K Kothandapani. Niranjan was among the six crew members who drowned while attempting to escape from the ship, MT Pratibha Cauvery, when it ran aground due to Cyclone Nilam on October 31 last year.

On Friday morning, when a relative who stays nearby went to their house at Arakkonam in Vellore district, the bodies of the couple were found hanging on the two ends of a rope. Police believe that the couple committed suicide sometime early morning.

Their relatives told the local media that a suicide note left behind by Kothandapani, a farmer, and his wife Bharathi, blamed the shipping company and the authorities for not taking action against those responsible for the incident or help them at the hour of need.

They wanted to donate their organs, a final wish that went unfulfilled as there was no facility in Arakkonam to harvest their organs and it was too late to do so anywhere else.

"They were deeply depressed by the death of their son, which seems to have prompted them to take the extreme step. The company gave them some money when the body was brought home but then the matter of compensation got stuck in the courts," said Arakkonam inspector N Saravanan, the investigating officer.

Cargo vessel MT Pratibha Cauvery, owned by Mumbai-based Pratibha Shipping Company Ltd, ran aground due to a cyclonic storm before it could enter safer waters as advised by the Chennai Port authorities. Of the 37 crew on board, 22 had tried to escape in two lifeboats, which capsized as soon as they were lowered into the rough sea. Though a majority of them were rescued with the help of local fishermen who braved the six metre -high tidal waves, the second engineer of the ship, Anand Mohandoss, 30, instantly drowned and five others, including Niranjan, were washed away by the strong currents.

The bodies of junior engineer Niranjan, Kanitkar Raj Ramesh (22), Jadhav Rishabh (24), Krishna C P Purayil (23) and Jomon Joseph (23) were found a couple of days later.

The incident was shrouded in mystery due to different versions as to how the incident occurred and the history of the ship. Family members alleged that the company had not paid several months' salaries to the crew, who did not even have water or food on board when the accident took place.

Mohandoss's family soon approached the Madras High Court seeking judicial probe, and also seeking an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh and a total compensation of Rs 1 crore.

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