Sujith Wilson trapped in Tamil Nadu pit dies as rescue efforts fail

Relatives grieve Wilson’s death in Tiruchirappalli district. (PTI)

Nearly 80 hours after a two-and-a-half-year-old boy fell into an abandoned borewell near his home in a village in Tiruchirappalli district, rescue personnel on Tuesday morning retrieved his mangled body, following futile rescue efforts by several state and central teams.

B Sujith Wilson was initially traced at 28 feet below the ground but attempts by local residents to save him pushed the boy further down the pit — first to a depth of 40 feet and then to nearly 80 feet in the abandoned borewell.

Wilson’s body was retrieved around 4 am on Tuesday after several teams failed to rescue him due to several reasons, including rocky terrain and initial efforts by untrained residents.

The Madras High Court on Tuesday demanded a report on the action taken by the government against violators. Hearing a case related to the boy’s death, a bench comprising Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee said the entire nation has lost a child. “We should have followed guidelines laid down by Supreme Court in 2009. Prevention is better than cure. TV channels could have had time to create awareness,” the court said.

Sujith with his father Britto Arokiyaraj, mother Kala Marry and his elder brother.

Personnel of the state fire and safety department, NDRF and agencies such as ONGC had joined the rescue mission by Saturday evening. They decided to drill a 100-foot-deep hole parallel to the borewell and rescue Wilson through a connecting tunnel. “The efforts to drill the hole faced challenges due to hard rock structures around two feet from the surface. We were also restricting ourselves from the use of heavy rig machines fearing any damage to the borewell pit that would hurt the victim,” said a senior police officer who coordinated the rescue efforts.

The officer said they temporarily stopped the operation after noticing a foul smell when officials announced the drilling had covered over 60 feet, after much delay. State Revenue Secretary J Radhakrishnan, who was on the spot to lead the mission, declared the boy dead before 3 am. The operation was then called off.

After a postmortem at the Manapparai Government Hospital, the body was directly taken to a graveyard near Wilson’s home for the last rites.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami expressed pain at the failed rescue mission and thanked teams that were engaged in efforts to save the boy for three days. Citing government rules regarding borewells and safety measures as per a 2015 government order, Palaniswami said he had ordered district collectors to enforce the rules and sought strict action against violators.

Opposition leader M K Stalin criticised the state government, alleging that the presence of state ministers on the spot made the rescue operation difficult.