Officials of the Malayatoor forest range said that the students were bathing in the river around 11.30 am when tragedy struck. "We had given strict instructions to the NCC authorities not to allow the students to get into the river for swimming as the area was highly dangerous due to sudden strong undercurrents in the river," said range officer Saseendran Thundathil.
About 750 NCC cadets from 16 states have congregated in Kerala's Ernakulam district to take part in a national-level trekking camp that started on Dec 23 and is slated to continue till Dec 30.
Seeing a cadet drown, his friends reportedly jumped into the river and tried to rescue him. However, four of them perished in the effort. The bodies, retrieved by the other cadets, have been kept at a hospital in Malayatoor.
The deceased have been identified as: Hemant Kumar (16), son of Anand Puri from Tuqlaqbad extension; Dilshad Allam (18) from Sakeer Nagar, Okhla; Gulvez Ahamed (18), son of Muhammed Kafeel from Old Govindapuram in Delhi; Sabeesh Baqri (18), son of Shahid Hussain from Moti Mahal, Saeed Nagli in Uttar Pradesh and Muhammed Sishan (18), son of Mohammed Wasim Ahammed from Okhla.
An enquiry has been ordered into the incident. Ernakulam Collector Shaik Pareeth told newspersons that the families of the five had been informed about the deaths.
Ernakulam NCC Group of Kerala NCC Directorate has organised the camp. Cadets started out on their treks from the St Thomas High School, the base camp, two days ago.
According to the local MLA Jose Thettayil (Janata Dal-Secular), the five cadets told NCC officials that they were going to the river to take photos. One of them tried to wash his face in the river. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and fell. The other four tried to save him but did not succeed.