WHEN OLD classmates and good friends decide to get together, it is an occasion to cherish forever. And so it was on Monday night for automobile engineers, Praveen K Nair and Ranjith Kumar A P, as they huddled together with their wives and children in one room of a resort 50 km from Kathmandu.
Until Tuesday morning — when all of them were found unconscious, choked by fumes from the kerosene heater they had kept on through the night with the windows shut. “They were brought here in a helicopter where doctors declared them dead on arrival,” sources at the HAMS Hospital in Kathmandu told The Indian Express.
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By then, local police had put out a list: Praveen K Nair (39), his wife Saranya (34), their three children, Sreebhadra (9), Aarcha (8) and Abhinav (7), and Ranjith Kumar (39), his wife Indu Lakshmi (34) and their son Vaishnav (2).
And soon, the news of the eight deaths travelled 3,000 km south to Kerala from where the families hailed — Praveen from Thiruvananthapuram and Ranjith from Kozhikode. The only consolation: Ranjith’s elder son Madhav (7) had slept in another room of the Everest Panorama Resort last night.
Praveen was working in Dubai, Saranya was pursuing an M.Pharm, and the family was based in Kochi. Friends and neighbours at Praveen’s parents’ home in Thiruvananthapuram said they disconnected the cable connection as soon as they got the news because his father had recently survived a heart attack.
What added to the trauma, they said, were initial reports that one of Praveen’s children had survived before it became clear that the survivor was Ranjith’s son.
“Praveen had told me that he would be here for a festival at the local temple that was scheduled to begin on January 29. In fact, he had planned the visit to Kerala keeping the festival in mind,” said Aji Dinesh, a neighbour.
Ranjith, who worked at the Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram, had recently launched his own IT venture in Kozhikode. “Indu had recently started working as a clerk with a cooperative bank. The family had been constructing a house and Ranjith was trying to put his new IT venture on track,” their neighbour, C P Zakir Husain, told The Indian Express.
According to police in Nepal, the two families were part of a group of 15 from Kerala who had stopped over at Daman while travelling from Pokhara to Kathmandu.
Officials in Kerala said Praveen and Ranjith had graduated together from an engineering college in Thiruvananthapuram in 2004. The 15-member group — families of four engineers — had left Kochi Saturday, they said.
“The two groups of tourists from Kerala checked into two rooms in a hotel in Daman, six in one and eight in another room. All the eight in one room were found unconscious in the morning and immediately flown to Kathmandu’s HAMS Hospital. The other six who stayed in a separate room are fine,” police in Nepal said.
Officials said the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu is coordinating with families and relatives of the victims. The Embassy said in a statement that it “received information today morning regarding 8 Indian National tourists from Kerala being found unconscious in their hotel room in Daman, Makwanpur District, Nepal”.
“All 8 were airlifted and brought to a hospital in Kathmandu. A doctor from this mission was also immediately sent to the hospital to check on the welfare of patients and to coordinate/ provide necessary assistance. However, we have now been informed that all 8 patients did not survive,” it said.
“Our doctor, along with a member of the group, is in the hospital. Other group members and family from India/Dubai are on their way to Kathmandu. Contact details of Mission officials have been shared with family/friends,” the statement said.
Condoling the deaths, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state government has contacted the Embassy and steps have been taken for the bodies to be sent as early as possible to Kerala.
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