Phillip Island tragedy story

Last Wednesday was a terribly horrendous and tragic day for the local Indian community when a family lost four of its members to drowning at Forrest Caves on Phillip Island.

Those lost were – Jagjeet Shivam Anand, a 23-year-old Melbourne-based nurse, 20-year-old students Suhani Anand and Kirti Bedi and 43-year-old Reema Sondhi who was visiting family in Australia. All three younger victims lived in Clyde.

The family were enjoying the water and having fun at a beach off the coast of Phillip Island near Forrest Caves, when they were caught in a rip.

Authorities were called to the beach about 3:30pm on Wednesday after reports four people were in trouble.

Police believe they were in the water about 4 kilometres from two patrolled beaches, Woolamai Beach and Smith’s Beach.

The police say the family were swimming at an unpatrolled beach, which is locally known for treacherous conditions.

Three of the victims Reema Sondhi, Jagjeet Shivam Anand and Kirti Bedi – all died on the scene while the fourth victim, 20-year-old Suhani fought for life and was flown to the Alfred hospital but could not be saved and died there.

Authorities urged swimmers urged to stick to patrolled beaches.

The area had not seen such a colossal tragedy in 20 years.

All four were farewelled by their grieving family and friends yesterday at a funeral service in Melbourne.

Some family and friends had come from India to farewell the four relatives.

Grieving uncle Ankur Chhabra said the young relatives had moved to Australia for a better life which was tragically cut short.

“They were all very young and they just came here for the better future, just to visit me and in a few seconds we lost everybody,” Ankur said.

Reema Sondhi, Ankur’s sister and a mother of two, had been in Melbourne for only two weeks visiting her young nieces and nephew when the tragedy struck.

Jagjeet Shivam Anand was a dedicated aged care worker and Suhani was studying nursing. Kirti had moved to Australia just six months ago.

“We’re never going to forget them,” Chhabra said.

“It’s always gonna be in our hearts.”

This tragedy has hit the community hard. But it is going to be much harder for the family to cope having lost four members at such a young age.

And it will be particularly hard for Reema’s husband, who had been by her side, but could not help her and himself managed to get back to safety.

Having planned a day trip, which we all do, the family had been just wading in the water at knee height when a big wave hit and dragged them back into the ocean.

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