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Three men drown during Ganesh Visarjan in Savannah

Members of Sai Parivar of Georgia (in saffron) helping in the rescue mission. Photo by Sai Parivar of Georgia.

NRI Pulse Staff Report

UPDATE: (01.20 PM, SEPT 29)

New details are emerging in the Savannah tragedy where 3 people lost their lives during Ganesh Visarjan last Sunday. Speaking to NRI Pulse, Pravin (Paul) Patel, president of Shree Sai Parivar Georgia, who was eye witness to the tragedy, said the victims were part of another group of about 50 that had converged on the other, more dangerous end of the island.

 “We noticed the group and called them to join us in our Visarjan ceremony at the calmer, safe end of the sand bar,” Patel said. “Sai Parivar has been organizing the visarjan ceremony for five years now. We take every precaution for safety. We have boats and a  police team. This year, we had 2,200 people in the Sai Parivar and Savannah (Surti family) group.”

 The other group, unfortunately, decided not to join the Sai Parivar group and continued the visarjan at the dangerous end. “While we were on the boat, we heard screaming,” said Patel. “We rushed our boats to the spot. We saw 8 to 11 people in the water. We reacted quickly, pulling them out of the water and saved 5 to 6 people. Lucky, the youngest member of our group, swam across to help with the rescue. He saved 3 people on his own.”

Read Lucky’s (Nimesh Patel’s) account in our Indians of Atlanta feature: “I thank God for giving me the courage to help”

 The doctors in the Sai Parivar group performed CPR on several people, including the victims who lost their lives, Patel added. “Every year, we take utmost precaution during the visarjan ceremony. We will be happy to advice other groups on safety.”

 The other end of the sand bar where the victims lost their lives apparently is a secluded spot and has signs warning people to keep away from the water.

UPDATE: (12.45 PM, SEPT 29)

Speaking to NRI Pulse, Madhu Tata, secretary of Telugu Association of North America (TANA) said he had learned that Sriram Raj would be cremated in the US, while Anup Kshirsagar’s body would be flown to Mumbai. Both victims had one child each

Tata, who also represents TANA Team Square, the emergency help wing of TANA, said he appreciated the efforts of the Indian Consulate that had sent their representative, Consul D. V. Singh, to the location of the tragedy.

UPDATE: (11.20 AM, SEPT 29)

Crews have recovered the body of Abhijeet Alhat. Police Chief Bob Bryson told the Savannah Morning News that the victim was found in the water shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday, the third day of searching for him.

UPDATE: (8.20 AM, SEPT 29)

Speaking to NRI Pulse from Savannah, Sunil Savili of Indian Friends of Atlanta (IFA) said the third victim, Dhanunjay Bathula, who was in the ICU at Memorial University Medical Center is now out of danger.

Savili had rushed to Savannah along with Madhu Tata, secretary of TAMA and D. V Singh from the Indian Consulate in Atlanta after hearing about the tragedy.

Alhat’s wife, who is nine months pregnant, still has hopes of finding her husband alive, Savili added.

A fundraising account has been set up to help the families of the victims.


Atlanta, GA:Two employees of Gulfstream, Savannah lost their lives while participating in Ganesh Visarjan off Tybee Island, according to a statement released by Indians Friends of Atlanta (IFA). Crews on Tybee Island are still searching for a third man, while a fourth man is in emergency care. Seven other people were also saved by rescue teams.

A group had gathered near the sand bar south of 19th Street when they became stranded in the water about 5:50 p.m., said Tybee Island Fire Chief Ashley Fields.

Four people were pulled from the water and taken to the near by Memorial University Medical Center. Two of them died, Fields said.

“With deep regret and heavy hearts IFA informs that Anup Kshirsagar, Sriram Raj, Abhijeet Alhat and Dhanunjay Bathula employees of Gulfstream, Savannah, GA have met with an accident while participating in Ganesh Nimajjanam in Savannah,GA,” said the IFA statement. “Unfortunately Anup Kshirsagar and Sriram Raj have lost their lives. Authorities are still searching for Abhijeet Alhat. While Dhanunjay is found, he is in emergency care in a nearby hospital.”

The TANA Square Team led by Madhu Tata, who is also TANA secretary, IFA and Sewa International, Atlanta chapter are among the Atlanta organizations that are coordinating with the Indian Consulate in Atlanta to help the affected families.

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