Relatives pay last respects to 4 Indian victims of Australia beach tragedy

International |  IANS  | Published :

Sydney, Feb 1 (IANS) Grieving relatives travelled from India on Thursday to bid final adieu to four of their family members who died last week on Phillip Island in one of the worst drowning tragedies in the Australian state of Victoria since 2005.

Siblings Jagjeet Shivam Anand, 23, and Suhani Anand, 20, along with Kriti Bedi, 20, and Reema Sondhi, 43, died after the tide turned at the unpatrolled Forrest Caves beach in Newhaven.

The four victims were cremated on Thursday after a service that combined Sikh and Hindu rites and was attended by about 200 mourners, including family members, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Remembering his late nephew, niece, sister, and sister-in-law, Ankur Chhabra said his young relatives came to Australia for a better future, and "in a few seconds, we lost everybody”.

He recalled Jagjeet as a "golden-hearted boy”, Suhani as “the most beautiful girl”, Reema as the "bravest girl” and Kirti as “an animal lover”.

While Jagjeet was a dedicated aged care worker and sister Suhani was studying nursing, Kirti had arrived six months ago from Punjab to study psychology.

She stayed with Jagjeet and Suhani in Clyde alongside Chhabra, the report said.

Reema, a mother of two teens, was two weeks into her Australian holiday when the tragedy struck.

Emergency services in the past have warned against swimming at the relatively remote Forrest Caves beach, which they say is a spot best suited to surfers.

Chhabra told The Herald that his family didn’t see the warnings of dangerous waters at Forrest Caves, urging the authorities to improve safety signage.

“We have lost four family members, we don’t want anyone else to lose their family members,” Chhabra said.

Along with Chhabra, other family and friends thanked the emergency services for trying to save their loved ones.

They also praised the Indian High Commission and local MP Cassandra Fernando for helping the Indian family members enter the country for Thursday’s service.

Off-duty lifesavers surfing nearby had rushed to the drowning family's aid and pulled three people from the water unresponsive on January 24 at around 3.30 p.m.

A rescue boat retrieved the fourth person after the Cape Woolamai Surf Lifesaving Club responded at about 3.40 p.m.

Three of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene, while Suhani was airlifted to The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in a critical condition where she succumbed to her injuries.

The Indian High Commission condoled the deaths as a "heartbreaking tragedy" and assured all assistance to the family and friends of the deceased.

"We all worked tirelessly to help those people," Ambulance Victoria manager Paul James had told the media after the tragedy.

Liam Krige, Life Saving Victoria's general manager of operations, said at a press conference that 19 people have drowned in Victoria since December 1 -- two more than the same period last summer.

"Behind each one of these drownings, there is a family, there’s a brother, there's a sister, there's a mother, there's a daughter," he said.

SURYAA NEWS, synonym with professional journalism, started basically to serve the Telugu language readers. And apart from that we have our own e-portal domains viz,. and