A 15-year-old Indian girl drowned while four others were rescued off the Glenelg beach in Adelaide on Sunday, according to reports. The group of teenagers was part of the Indian sports contingent participating in the Pacific School Games in Australia.
Nitisha Negi and four other Indian girls were swimming in the waters off the Adelaide beach on Sunday when the tragedy struck. Lifeguards managed to rescue four of the girls, while Negi’s body was recovered only on Monday morning. The four survivors were taken to various hospitals in Adelaide and one of them is reported to be critical.
Australia’s Sports Minister Leon Bignell described the death as a “huge tragedy” and said that his government had been in touch with Negi’s family and representatives from the Indian consulate in Sydney. Bignell also said that the Australian government will pay for getting Negi’s body back to India.
The week-long Pacific School Games, which ended on Saturday, had around 4,000 participants from 15 countries across 11 sports.
School Games Federation of India (SGFI) Secretary General Rajesh Mishra said, “Before returning home, the sports manager had taken some players to sea beach last evening. Out of them five girls from the football team had gone down into the seawater and were taking selfies. They must not have seen a huge wave coming from behind, they fell down and all the five were swept away,” he said. “Helicopters came and the four girls were taken to nearby hospitals but the fifth one went missing,” he added. He said all the five school girls, including the one who died, were from Delhi.
“Out of the four who were taken to the hospital, three have been discharged while the fourth girl is likely to be discharged shortly. She (the fourth girl) was kept at the ICU but is now out of danger and will be discharged on Tuesday,” Mishra said.
Matter to be probed
Asked why the school girls were allowed to go to the dangerous area of the beach, Mishra said, “We have sent an official of the SGFI to probe the the matter and the federation will take action on the basis of that report. It is a matter involving the death of a person and so the local Australian police will deal with the issue. Of course the Indian High Commission is also involved. Sports Ministry has also ordered an inquiry and we have been told to submit some documents and we have done that.”
The Sports Ministry tweeted before the news of the girl’s death: “The Very disturbing news from Glenelg beach in Australia. H’ble MOS sports,YAS is in touch with @MEAIndia and H’EAM @SushmaSwaraj ji. Indian High Commission is providing all support. Our thoughts & prayers w/ the players. Thorough investigation is ordered,” the ministry said on its official Twitter handle.
Mishra admitted that these Games were not recognised by the International School Sport Federation (ISF) but the Indians had participated through the government on the invitation of the School Sports Australia.
Event not recognised by ISF
“This is not recognised by the ISF but we have done nothing wrong while participating in the event. In fact, the invitation letter from the School Sports Australia first came to the Sports Ministry which forwarded it to us,” he said. “The SGFI then asked our state units whether they are interested in sending their players. Some state units like Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh said yes.”
He said the governments of Delhi, Chhattisgarh and MP sanctioned funds for these school children to take part in the Games. “The state units of the SGFI have state government officials as members. So the governments of Delhi, Chhattisgarh and MP wanted to send their school children as part of sports promotion.”
Asked if the SGFI got sanction from the Sports Ministry, he said, “Under Sports Ministry rules you can take part in tournaments outside the country at your own cost. So the Sports Ministry did not give any funds but the invitation letter from the Australian federation was forwarded to us from the Sports Ministry. So, there was no need to get sanction from the sports ministry.”