School reunion turns tragic as two from Mumbai drown at Bhushi dam

14 former students of an Andheri-based school had gone for an outing to the Lonavla dam; according to the police, the two deceased had jumped into the reservoir of the dam -- a restricted zone

The reunion of 14 school friends from the city ended in tragedy as two of them drowned at the Bhushi dam in Lonavla on Sunday. According to the Pune Rural police, who have jurisdiction over the popular spot, this is the fourth drowning incident reported at the dam in the past week alone.

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Police found the two bodies around 30 feet away from where the boys had last been seen in the reservoir
Police found the two bodies around 30 feet away from where the boys had last been seen in the reservoir

The two deceased were identified as Bhupen Dhiraj Bhandari (20) and Aniket Shahaji Hande (20), both residents of Andheri. Their bodies were fished out of the dam four hours after they went missing. The Lonavla city police station, which is under the Pune Rural police, has registered an accidental death report.

Bhupen Bhandari
Bhupen Bhandari

Tourists throng the dam during the monsoon, when it overflows and the water flows down a series of steps on which people can sit. There are also many waterfalls around the dam, making it a scenic spot. I S Patil, senior police inspector, Lonavla city police station, said, “From the past 11 days, there has been no rainfall in Lonavla area; the last time it rained was on June 25.

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Due to scanty rainfall, the flow of water is less and waterfalls are also rare. These youths had crossed over to the danger zone and jumped into the reservoir of the dam. The duo was last seen at around 12.30 pm (Sunday) and then went missing. One of the group members alerted us and the process of fishing out bodies began.”

At around 3.30 pm, Bhandari’s body was fished out and, an hour later, Hande, too, was found. Both were found around 30 feet from the spot where they were last seen. Local residents Shahebrao Chavan, Raju Pawar, Sakharam Waghmare and Vijay More helped find the drowned boys.

Cop speak
Sub-inspector N R Gaikwad, who is investigating the case, added, “These youngsters were a group of 14 and had come from Mumbai in two SUVs. All are alumni of an Andheri-based school and had their get-together at the dam. Due to poor rainfall, tourists are disappointed and tend to enter restricted territory.

We have deployed police and have even displayed warning signs, but tourists neglect these at the risk of their own lives.” After a post-mortem at a Lonavla hospital, the two bodies were handed over to the respective families, who were in shock.

“We will record the statements of the families and also eyewitnesses. The reason behind their drowning will be clearer then, but the spot they were last seen at was restricted,” Gaikwad told mid-day.


'He was a quiet boy'
The chawl in Malpa Dongri Number 3, in Andheri (East), had plunged into grief when mid-day visited it yesterday. This is where Bhupen Bhandari, one of the two students who drowned at Bhushi dam, lived. Bhandari’s two younger siblings a brother and a sister were in a state of shock after being told their elder brother was no more.

Bhupen Bhandari’s friends remember him as a quiet boy. Pic/Sameer MarkandeBhupen Bhandari’s friends remember him as a quiet boy. Pic/Sameer Markande

Neighbours remembered Bhandari as a quiet boy. Siddhesh Pilke, one of his childhood friends, said, “I knew him for more than 15 years; we played and grew up together. He was a quiet person and never spoke much after he went to college. We are stunned to know he has gone. Never in our worst dreams had we imagined this would happen.”

According to another resident of the chawl, Bhandari had not told his family he was going to the dam. It was his friends who first learnt of his demise, but they told the family he had met with some accident.

- Ranjeet Jadhav

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