Madhav fell fast asleep soon after he and his family, and their friends, reached the Everest Panorama Resort in Nepal’s Daman. It was around 1 am on Tuesday when the group of 15 members from Kerala reached the resort. The temperature had dropped to almost 3 degrees Celsius that night and it was chilly in the rooms.
Since 7-year-old Madhav was sleeping, his parents — Ranjith Punathil (39) and Indu Ranjith (34) — left him in their room and went to their friend’s room, as there was a heater there. They took Madhav’s two-year-old sibling, Vaishnav Ranjith, with them. The three then joined Praveen Krishnan Nair (39), his wife Saranya (34) and their three children — Sreebhadra (9), Aarcha (8) and Abhi Nair (7) — hoping that the 8-foot gas heater in the room, which the family had requested for, would keep them warm in the chilly weather.
But all eight members in that room fell unconscious and never woke up. They were found dead around 7 am on Tuesday. Madhav, however, survived, and is now an orphan.
It has been more than 36 hours since Madhav’s father, mother and brother passed away, and the seven-year-old is yet to be informed of the deaths, said Kailashnath Iyer, a member of the Kathmandu Kerala Samajam, a Malayali association in Nepal that made arrangements for the families. Madhav is on his way to Kozhikode in Kerala, where the family of four hail from originally. The bodies of his family will arrive on Thursday.
Praveen and Ranjith’s families went to Nepal along with two other family friends — Ramkumar and Jayakrishnan. The four families were returning from Pokhara in Nepal and made a pit-stop at Daman before they returned to India. They reached Daman on a bus. On Tuesday morning, after the eight dead bodies were airlifted to HAMS hospital in Nepal’s capital city, Madhav and six other members in the group left for Kathmandu in the same bus.
Kathmandu Kerala Samajam arranged a hotel room for Madhav and the two families. Kailashnath Iyer was with Madhav in Kathmandu when he received a call from the seven-year-old’s uncle in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Unaware of what was happening, Madhav innocently told his uncle that he was in Kathmandu, having food and that he would be returning home the next day. “He even spoke to his uncle’s children,” Kailashnath told TNM.
On Wednesday morning, Madhav left to New Delhi from Kathmandu along with the wives and children of Ramkumar and Jayakirshnan. “His uncle received him at the New Delhi airport. From Delhi, he will be taken to Kozhikode,” he said.
Currently, Ramkumar, Jayakrishnan and four of their other common friends are in Kathmandu arranging for the death certificates of the eight members and completing other formalities after the postmortem.
“We are in talks with Air India to allow the six to fly along with the eight bodies in the same flight from Kathmandu on Thursday. From New Delhi, the five bodies (of Praveen and his family) will be flown to Thiruvananthapuram, and the other three (of Madhav’s parents and brother) to Kozhikode,” said Kailashnath, who was with Ramkumar and Jayakrishnan.
‘Will lodge complaint against hotel’
According to Kailashnath, Ranjith, Indu and Vaishnav went to Praveen’s room to sit near the outdoor heater and keep themselves warm for some time. There was no ventilation in the room as the families kept all doors and windows shut.
Furthermore, an outdoor heater was provided by the hotel instead of a room heater. According to experts, a patio or outdoor heater, which runs on propane gas, requires a considerable airflow and should not be used indoors. Such heaters produce carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. Since carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless, people may not realise they are inhaling it. And the poisonous gas enters the body, it deprives the body of oxygen and within hours, the person may feel light-headed, nauseous and even experience loss of coordination and balance.
“This is clearly a case of negligence from the part of the hotel. They should not have allowed the use of such heaters in a room,” said Kailashnath, who is planning to lodge a complaint against the hotel.
“We are consulting with the Indian Embassy in Nepal and trying to register a case. As suggested by the Embassy, we will talk to the tourist police in Nepal and do the needful,” he added.