New Zealand

Couple feared dead after car plunges into a lake

A husband was teaching his wife how to drive when the car accelerated into a lake in Christchurch, New Zealand last night, and their bodies are feared to be in the submerged vehicle.


September 13, 2017 11:27 am

Avneel Ram had dived in to try and reach his wife, Sheetal, when their car slipped.

Update 12.40PM: NZ Police divers have recovered the bodies of Avneel and Sheetal Ram from the lake.

According to NZ Herald, Avneel Ram had dived in to try and reach his wife, Sheetal, when their car slipped into the water.

The couple, originally from Suva, have a 5-month-old daughter who is being cared for by the family members.

Sheetal’s brother-in-law Hinesh Kumar today described the husband as a “hero” for trying to save his wife.

“He is a hero to us. He tried to save his wife. Not everyone would do that,” Kumar said.

Sheetal’s mother called him yesterday.

“She was crying, saying they’ve fallen into the lake. They’re in the lake,” he said.

Police visited the family and told them what had happened and the family then went to the lake.

“It’s really shocking for us,” Kumar said. “We’ve never expected this to happen to us.  “We are totally lost. We don’t know what to do now, we don’t know what the next step will be.”

The close-knit Fijian Indian community in Christchurch is a big help, the family say.

They described the couple as “very friendly, very happy people”.

“They were really fun to be around, really nice,” Kumar said.

Sheetal came to New Zealand last year, but her husband has been in New Zealand for about five years. He ran an air-conditioning company and was well known in the community. He was teaching his wife how to drive so she could find work.

The police national dive squad were due at the scene earlier this morning but were delayed, not arriving until 10am. They went into the lake about 10.30am.

The family is critical of the time it’s taken to get to the couple.

“I just want to see them. That is all,” Kumar said.  “If this was Fiji, we would’ve have got in and got them out ourselves. We would not wait around.”

Earlier attempts to find the couple were unsuccessful when a diver indicated the water was too deep to reach the car.

Police staff and other emergency services stayed near the lake overnight, trying to establish what happened and speaking to people who saw the tragedy unfold.

Witness Jordan Fleming said he was walking his dog past the Westlake Reserve when he saw a woman in a red hatchback in the car park, and a man outside trying to open the driver’s door.

“I heard the accelerator go and that’s when the car went off the bank down the hill into the lake,” he said.

The man jumped in and swam after the sinking car, diving and resurfacing several times, Fleming said. Then he dived and did not reappear.

Police were called at 5.45pm to reports that a vehicle was submerged in the lake.

Firefighters and police tried to dive down to the vehicle to see if anyone was trapped inside.

Other witnesses said two other people who tried to save the pair were taken away by ambulance.

A diver went into the lake but came up indicating he could not reach the vehicle, locals say.

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