Eight Indian tourists die of suffocation

Kathmandu/Hetauda, Jan 21

The use of a gas heater in a hotel room in Daman to keep bone-chilling cold at bay has taken the lives of eight Indian tourists of two families, including four children.

The Indian travellers from Kerala who were on a vacation in Nepal were pronounced dead upon arrival at the Hospital for Advanced Medicine and Surgery in Kathmandu. Doctors said they died of suffocation.

The deceased have been identified as Praveen Krishan Nair, 39, his wife Saranya Sasi, 34, their children Sreebhadra Praveen, 8, Aarcha Praveen, 6, and Abhinov Saranya Nair, 5, according to police. Others who lost their lives are Ranjith Kumar, 39, his wife Indu Ranjith, 34, and their son Vaishnav Ranjith, 2. The Praveen family is from Trivandrum and Ranjith family is from Kozhikode.

They were airlifted to Kathmandu from Everest Panorama Resort in Daman, a hill station located about 80 km south-west of Kathmandu, after they were found unconscious in their hotel room at around 8:00 am. The hotel staff broke into their room after they did not respond to the breakfast call, as the main door and windows were bolted from inside.

Those who lost their lives today were a part of the 15-member group of tourists from Kerala who had arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday. They had initially travelled to Pokhara before arriving in Daman, Makawanpur district, at around 9:00 pm yesterday.

The group includes four families and the male adults were classmates at an engineering college in Kerala. Each family had booked a separate room at the hotel in Daman. All the tourists had arrived at the hotel shivering and had visited the restaurant straight away to have dinner, where they sat around a large LPG heater to keep themselves warm, according to Makawanpur Police Chief, Superintendent of Police Sushil Singh Rathaur.

Kerala enjoys a tropical climate where the weather is warm or hot throughout the year. But in Daman temperature dips to minus three to six degrees Celsius during this time of the year. So, the Indian travellers insisted they be allowed to sleep in the restaurant, SP Rathaur told THT. But the hotel management did not agree as the space was used by its staff to sleep. So, all the Indian tourists left for their rooms.

Before leaving for his room, one of the Indian tourists asked the hotel staff to bring a gas heater to his room. After the heater was put on, another Indian family joined them. But the family that joined later had left one of their children, Madhav Ranjith, 7, in their own room as the child had gone to sleep. This child and the remaining six Indian tourists, who had slept in another room without using the gas heater, have been transferred to Vaishali Hotel in Thamel.

“The reason for the death of the eight is suspected to be asphyxiation. But details will be revealed only after autopsy,” Dr Kamal Thapa, emergency in-charge of HAMS, said.

Their autopsy is being carried out at the Department of Forensic Science, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, in Maharajgunj in the presence of a medical team from the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan has condoled the passing away of the eight tourists through his Twitter post. “On the directions of the Chief Minister, the Non Resident Keralites Affairs (NORKA) officials have taken steps to expedite procedures for the repatriation of the mortal remains,” he tweeted.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has also expressed condolences to the families of the deceased. “Deeply distressed by the tragic news of the passing away of eight Indian tourists in Nepal,” he said. “Our Embassy in Nepal has been closely following the situation. Embassy officials are stationed at the hospital and are providing necessary assistance. Our thoughts are with the bereaved families.”