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10 May 2018

Honeymoon tragedy after raft capsizes

Vivek Chhetri and Bireswar Banerjee, TT,  May 10, 2018, Darjeeling: Tragedy struck a honeymooning couple in the Teesta on Wednesday when a raft capsized and the husband died at 6th Mile in Kalimpong, 50km from Siliguri.

Roshan Singh, 38, a resident of Bihar's Muzaffarpur, and Banishka, 22, who were married a week ago, were river-rafting when the mishap took place. Banishka and four other tourists from Delhi survived after struggling in the water for nearly 20 minutes.

Police sources said the couple were returning from Gangtok. Tourists partial to outdoor adventure stop along the NH 10, which connects Siliguri with Gangtok, for white river-rafting in the Teesta either on their way to the Sikkim capital or to Kalimpong.

Some residents claimed they heard that when the raft capsized, a person tried to cling on to Roshan by clutching at his life jacket which slipped off. The version could not be corroborated with the survivors as they appeared in no condition to speak for long.

Col. D.N. Bhutia, chief administrator of the Indian Himalayan Centre for Adventure and Eco Centre in Gangtok, said that if the life jacket slipped off, it should not have happened "as it has to be secured and tested every time".

A survivor who did not want to be named managed to say: "We had rafted for two-three kilometres when it suddenly capsized. We had to struggle for our life and there was not much help around."

But a resident said guide Kashim Hussain and two helpers "jumped into the water and rescued the tourists".

Each raft usually has a main guide and two helpers. The particular raft was operated by Everest River Rafting.

Since hydel dams have come up along the Teesta, the water was relatively calm, the residents added.

The mishap has fuelled questions whether all guides are trained. Rafting started from the mid-1990s in the region and several unemployed youths are now in business.

Shiva Kumar Pradhan of Everest River Rafting, which has a fleet of 14 rafts, said: "Most of our rafters (operators) have obtained licences from Goa." He did not give a direct answer to a question whether all rafters had licences.

Everest runs two rides, one lasting one hour and the other 40 minutes. The rides cost Rs 5,000 and Rs 4,000 per raft.

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