By Ram Khatry I 10 January 2019: A family member of Nepalese student Bigul Pandit has said the accounting student’s final words just before he disappeared in the Murray River were: “I don’t know swimming! I don’t know swimming!”
The hardworking young man from Charles Sturt University in Albury has been missing in the water since Wednesday evening.
The 21-year-old from Nepal’s Lamjung district was splashing around with his friends when the young group suddenly became troubled in the water at Albury’s popular Noreuil Park.
Speaking to southasia.com.au, Harry Adhikari said one female and four male friends were in the water when the incident took place at around 7:00 pm yesterday evening. They were all tossing a ball around in the waist-deep water but trouble began when they hit the deeper end of the river, Mr Adhikari said citing the missing student’s friends. Although they were struggling themselves, the four friends of Mr Pandit frantically attempted pulling him to safety but without success. The family member of the victim said, “He got lost as they watched!”
Mr Adhikari is married to the first cousin of the missing international student and is well and truly his local guardian. Bigul Pandit lived with them for nearly one and half years, until two weeks ago, when he moved to his university hostel “to be independent”.
Mr Pandit apparently met the four friends, all between 15 and 16 years of age, only two weeks ago at some KFC outlet, Mr Adhikari mentioned.
Today, members of the local Baha’i community in Albury were at the site to pray for the missing student’s safety, he said during a telephone conversation. It is understood the Nepalese man was participating in some sort of Baha’i event at the same place yesterday when the unfortunate incident occurred.
Emergency crew searched for the missing man Wednesday evening as well as on today until 6:30 pm. The operation is set to begin at 8:30 am on Friday while family members are still hoping “may be he is all right somehow”.
Mr Pandit arrived in Australia around June 2018 and soon fell in rhythm with life in Australia. “He is such a good man, very honest and hardworking, listens to guardians, parents. When I tell him something, he takes it very positively,” a heart-broken Mr Adhikari said, adding, “As a family, I really hope he comes back!”.
So “hardworking” is the missing student that within a short span of time he has become “almost a head chef” at the local Guru’s Star Cafe in Albury.
Mr Pandit’s mother works in Israel while his father is back in Nepal. Both parents have been informed about the event concerning their son. They are devastated and “cried a lot” when they learned about what had happened, Mr Adhikari said. The parents are waiting for the outcome of the search operation before they decide the next course of action, he said.
There has been a disproportionate number of drowning incidents among members of the Nepalese diaspora in Australia, young international students in particular.
As recently as December 28, the body of a much-loved disability carer Nischal Ghimire was located at a boat ramp in Adelaide following a multi-agency search operation by the local authorities.
Durga Rimal, a member of approximately 1500-strong Nepali-speaking Bhutanese community in the Albury-Wodonga region, said his community stands ready to extend all sorts of support to the effected family.
This news article has been edited to reflect the correct Nepalese district Bigul Pandit is originally from: “Lamjung” instead of “Tanahun”. 11Jan19 10:13 AEST