An official of Spartan Health Services University in Vieux Fort has told national television that students have been warned not to go in the “particular area” at Cannelles Beach where three Indian nationals attached to the institution perished over the Easter holiday weekend.
Reports are that on Saturday, March 31, 2018, medical students Indumathi Raman and Bhuvan Gengatharan were preparing to go home but decided to stop by Cannelles Beach, along the Vieux-Fort/Micoud coastline, to take some photos – and ‘selfies’.
Sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12 noon, while taking the photos on the rocks, what is described as a large “rogue wave”, lashed the students into the water.
Dr. Subramaniam, who was sitting off-shore, sprung into action and tried to save the students, but he too was devoured by the angry waves. Attempts by fishermen nearby to save the trio proved futile.
The bodies of the students were recovered hours later. However, the body of the lecturer was only recovered by the Police Marine Unit on Monday, April 2 at Cas en Bas Beach, Gros Islet, after almost three days of searching.
Consultant and administrator, Percival McDonald, told Choice News on Tuesday, April 3 that the students were warned to avoid the area where the freak accident occurred.
“[We] always warned them not to go in this particular area. We [were] asking them if anything go on the Caribbean side, but you know young people they are going to be adventurous, okay,” he said.
McDonald called the incident “unfortunate” and added that there is nothing much that can be done right now except to pray and “leave everything in the hands of God”.
Describing himself as a “firm spiritual person”, McDonald said he believes everything will “work out alright” in the spiritual sense, especially for Dr. Subramaniam who risked, and ultimately sacrificed his life, in his attempt to save the students.
McDonald said “anyone” would have have done what the lecturer did.
“[It is] one of those things that is very difficult but we will overcome that,” the administrator told Choice.
He has expressed gratitude to all the persons who assisted in the search for the bodies, as well as those who have expressed condolences.
As a result of the tragedy, the institution will remain closed until Thursday, April 5, according to Choice News.
A black flag is being flown at half mast at the medical school.
A fundraising campaign has since been established on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to raise $30,000 to assist the families of the deceased. More than $8,000 were pledged when this story was published.
The cost of airlifting the bodies back to India and some associated costs will be taken care of by the university, according to school officials.
The tragedy has not only gripped the school body, but has plunged the Vieux Fort community in mourning, as the drowning victims, particularly the lecturer, were known by many persons.
Official expressions of condolences have since come from Parliamentary Representative for Vieux Fort South, Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, and Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
Dr. Anthony said in a press statement: “Incidents like these are rare but when they do occur the distress is immeasurable. I can understand the pain of the parents, family and friends of those who died. Their anguish must be unbearable as some, especially family members, are miles away from the scene of this tragedy. I ask my constituency to spare a thought for those who have been affected by this tragedy, in word and in prayer.”
Chastanet stated in a press release: “On behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia, I extend our condolences to the faculty and students at the university. This has to be a very difficult time for them all. We also feel for the entire southern community because we know that the students at the medical universities are very much part of the communities in which they study.”