A 15-year-old female footballer from Delhi, who had gone to take part in the unrecognised Pacific School Games in Australia, died after being drowned at the Glenelg Beach in Adelaide on Monday, a top official of School Games Federation of India (SGFI) said.
The schoolgirl, Nitisha Negi, was one of the five Indian footballers who were swept away by a huge wave on Sunday when they ventured into the seawaters after the completion of the Games.
SGFI, which is headed by double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, had fielded U-18 teams in six disciplines including hockey, football and softball for the invitational event, jointly organised by the Australian government and School Sports Australia.
These Games were not recognised by the International School Sports Federation, the parent international body. The Indian contingent had around 120 members.
Four of the five girls were rescued by local surf lifesavers on Sunday while the fifth one was found dead after the resumption of search operation on Monday morning. Her dead body was recovered near a rocky breakwater, the same section of beach where the two migrant boys drowned last year.
The Sports Ministry has ordered an inquiry into the unfortunate incident.
SGFI Secretary General Rajesh Mishra confirmed that the dead body of the girl was recovered early on Monday morning by the local Australian officials.
“We have got the message from Australia that the dead body of the girl was recovered this morning after a massive search operation. It is a very unfortunate incident and I send my heartfelt condolences to her family,” Mishra said on phone from Agra.
“Before returning home, the sports manager had taken some players to sea-beach last evening. Out of the five girls from the football team had gone down into the seawater and were taking selfies. They must not have seen a huge wave coming from behind, they fell down and all the five were swept away,” he said.
Four of them were rescued by the lifesavers stationed at the beach, with the help of around 40 Indian players and coaches.
“Helicopters came and the four girls were taken to nearby hospitals but the fifth one went missing. The local Australian officials continued the search and I can confirm that the dead body of the fifth girl was found this morning,” Mishra said.
He said all the five school girls, including the one who died, were from Delhi.
“Out of the four who were taken to the hospital, three have been discharged while the fourth girl is likely to be discharged shortly. She (the fourth girl) was kept at the ICU but is now out of danger and will be discharged tomorrow,” Mishra said.
Asked why the school girls were allowed to go to the dangerous area of the beach, Mishra said, “We have sent an official of the SGFI to probe the matter and the federation will take action on the basis of that report.
“It is a matter involving the death of a person and so the local Australian police will deal with the issue. Of course the Indian High Commission is also involved. Sports Ministry has also ordered an inquiry and we have been told to submit some documents and we have done that.”
The Sports Ministry tweeted before the news of the girl’s death: “The Very disturbing news from Glenelg beach in Australia. H’ble MOS sports, YAS is in touch with @MEAIndia and H’EAM @SushmaSwaraj ji.”
“Indian High Commission is providing all support. Our thoughts & prayers w/ the players. A thorough investigation is ordered,” the ministry said on its official Twitter handle.
Mishra admitted that these Games were not recognised by the International School Sport Federation (ISF) but the Indians had participated through the government on the invitation of the School Sports Australia.
“This is not recognised by the ISF but we have done nothing wrong while participating in the event. In fact, the invitation letter from the School Sports Australia first came to the Sports Ministry which forwarded it to us,” he said.
“The SGFI then asked our state units whether they are interested in sending their players. Some state units like Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh said yes.”
He said the governments of Delhi, Chhattisgarh and MP sanctioned funds for these school children to take part in the Games.
“The state units of the SGFI have state government officials as members. So the governments of Delhi, Chhattisgarh and MP wanted to send their school children as part of sports promotion.”
Asked if the SGFI got sanction from the Sports Ministry, he said, “Under Sports Ministry rules you can take part in tournaments outside the country at your own cost. So the Sports Ministry did not give any funds but the invitation letter from the Australian federation was forwarded to us from the Sports Ministry.
“So, there was no need to get sanction from the Sports ministry.”