Sujith’s Remains Retrieved 81 Hrs After He Fell Into a Borewell
Sujith’s remains were finally retrieved after 81 hours at 2:30 am on Tuesday, 29 October.
It was close to 11 pm on the night of Monday, 28 October, and the darkness that surrounded Nadukattupatti in Trichy district was only dispelled by flood lights attached to the residence of two-year-old Sujith Wilson, who had fallen into a borewell on 25 October evening. While the additional light source was meant to aid rescue personnel work through the night, a glance in the direction of the beam made it clear that an ominous announcement was soon to come.
The two rigs and the borewell machine that were in continuous use over the last 48 hours of the three-day operation were suddenly unmanned. The constant 'thud' that rented the air had made way for deafening silence.
While the rigs stood by each other, towering over the area, the borewell machine stood immobile close to the hole being dug parallel to the original well in which Sujith was trapped.
For the first time since rescue operations began, government personnel and rescue forces were at a standstill and the frenzied activity was grinding to a halt.
When The News Minute approached Revenue Minister RB Udhaykumar who was seated near the parallel well, he confirmed that there was a change in plan.
"We are going to change our methodology," he said cryptically, as we walked barefoot to inspect the blades of a rig. When pushed for information he added, "The NDRF and SDRF are discussing another way to bring him out."
Government Maintained Rescue Was ‘Challenging’
Earlier in the evening, the revenue department had said that the current method that involves digging another 35 feet vertically and then six feet horizontally, will take at least another day to complete.
The government offered no information on whether the child was alive but maintained that the rescue was 'challenging'. On 26 October morning, Health Minister Vijayabhaskar had said that no movement was detected from the child.
Sources, however, told TNM that at 12: 30 am on Tuesday, by the time the child’s demise was announced, he had been dead for at least 24 hours.
It was stench of the decomposing body that emanated from the borewell into the tent which led to a change in gear of the rescue operations.
"We definitely suspected death because the body was covered in mud," said a senior official involved in the rescue. "When we were digging a parallel hole, the body kept slipping further down. And every time he fell from 25 to 60 and then 88 feet, he would have got hit on both sides and been severely injured," he added.
Govt Had Started Counselling the Family
Aware that he will not be brought out alive, the government had begun counselling the family and attempted to prepare them for the worst. Family members told TNM that hints of Sujith's death were aplenty from the government on Monday. And when it became clear that even the use of a borewell machine will not lead to a faster removal of the body, officials decided it was time to change tack and formally announce the death.
"The ministers and NDRF personnel were aware of the plan by the night," said the revenue department official. "It didn't make sense after the stench to have any more hope. So, a hook was used to remove him," he added.
According to the NDRF's standard operating procedure on borewell incident response, this involves using an aluminum wire with a hook to retrieve the child. But when the wire was brought out, only dismembered parts could be lifted out.
"When we removed the mud around the body, there were only dismembered parts," says the official. "The body has been damaged by the constant falls," he added.
Sujith’s remains were finally retrieved after 81 hours at 2:30 am on Tuesday. The mortal remains were then taken to the Manapparai Government Hospital for postmortem before being brought to Pudur where Sujith was lowered into the earth, for the final time.
(This story has been published in an arrangement with The News Minute)
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