A 40-year-old teacher at IIT Kharagpur died on Sunday while saving his four-and-a-half-year-old son from drowning in a rain-filled abandoned boulder mine in Gholghoria, barely a couple of kilometres off campus.
Assistant professor Joydip Bhattacharjee had taken his son and daughter, the latter only two years old, for a short drive to the place when the accident occurred.
According to police, the son was trying to click a selfie with his father’s cellphone at the edge of the mine when he slipped and fell. Bhattacharjee, in a desperate bid to rescue him, jumped into the water himself though he didn’t know how to swim, said police. Even then, he managed to hold on to the boy, preventing him from drowning. The mine, which isn’t frequented by many, is roughly 15-16 feet deep, claimed locals.
Two local women cultivating the fields nearby were alerted by the little girl’s screams for help.
One of them, Sandhya Tudu, said: “We were in the fields nearby when we heard screams. We rushed to find a little girl and a person struggling with his son in the water. We waded in and pulled the child ashore but couldn’t find the man. We searched in the wat-er but he could not be traced.”
Locals, the police and Bhattacharjee’s colleagues reached the spot in a little while and traced the body. “Bhattacharjee’s body has been sent for autopsy,” said West Midnapore SP Bharati Ghosh. “The child was rescued but Bhattacharjee couldn’t be saved. Both kids have been sent home. We have started a case of unnatural death,” she added.
The teacher’s colleagues were shocked. “We lost one of our brightest teachers of naval architecture and ocean engineering. He was in the prime of his research in marine hydrodynamics, hydro-elasticity, coastal engineering, wave and tidal ene-rgy converters,” said Subhasis Tripathy, dean of the institute.
A brilliant student, Bhattacharjee did his graduation from Burdwan University. He then moved to Jadavpur University for his post-graduate studies, securing a first-class first in applied mathematics in 2001. He then went to IIT Kharagpur for his PhD. His wife and kids lived on campus, in the staff quarters, for the past four years. Faculty and students felt Bhattacharjee might have thought the spot was picturesque and had stopped by to enjoy it. “He might have thought that the water accumulated inside the brick kiln was not too deep. Otherwise, a sound person like him would not have ventured near the water, that too, with two small children,” said a senior faculty member.