While Canberra’s Indian community mourns the loss of a Torrens father-of-two, a stoush has broken out about why a rescue helicopter was left grounded less than 20 km from where he drowned.
Dr Krishna Nadimpalli remembered Raj Kishore as a gentleman who loved his family, cricket and surfing.
“He was a very social man … a good swimmer,” he said.
The 48-year-old Immigration Department IT consultant was in Batemans Bay with his wife Silpa and two children this week.
Mr Kishore’s nine-year-old daughter was building sandcastles with her 14-year-old brother around lunchtime on Monday, 5 July, when she decided to go for a swim at Surf Beach.
The youngster became caught in a rip and her father bravely went in to try to save her. While onlookers were able to get the girl out of the water, Mr Kishore was washed further out to sea.
At about 1:20 pm, he was found about 300 metres offshore by a lifesaver on a surf ski. Despite their continued efforts at CPR, Mr Kishore could not be revived.
Dr Nadimpalli said Mr Kishore’s death in such tragic circumstances was “traumatic” for the close-knit Indian community of Canberra.
While Mr Kishore’s family and friends struggle to make sense of their loss, questions have been raised about why a Moruya-based helicopter was unable to respond to the emergency.
Westpac Lifesaver 23 was grounded by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority due to paperwork issues at the time of the incident.
CASA has defended its decision to ground the helicopter and said the helicopter operator – Helistar – could have flown to the rescue scene under mercy flight provisions.
Helistar Aviation is the operator of the aircraft and employs Surf Life Saving Australia pilots and crew.
A CASA spokesperson said the issues related to maintenance management were relatively straightforward and able to be addressed quickly, but any breach resulted in an automatic grounding.
“Faced with a life and death situation … they could have declared a mercy flight, which allows them to fly even if it is in breach of normal regulations,” the spokesman said. “Obviously, they have to be able to justify it afterwards.”
The spokesperson expressed CASA’s sympathy for the family.
“We obviously feel for them and wish the drowning hadn’t happened,” he said.
Despite the lack of a helicopter, surf lifesavers, marine rescue and paramedics responded quickly to the call out. They were on the scene within minutes of the call to rescue Mr Kishore.