The heroic plunge of a young father | Sunday Observer
Saving a drowning lass

The heroic plunge of a young father

On May 21, the area around Tawakelle was dark and gloomy. Perhaps it was a precursor to the tragedy that was to unfold later in the day. After being lashed by heavy rains for several days the Upper Kotmale reservoir was already at bursting point when at around 10 am on that fatal day people in the area witnessed a commotion at the railway bridge running over the reservoir. As screams and shouts were heard, within minutes it was clear that someone had jumped over the bridge into the deep waters below.

Witnesses gathering in the area saw a woman, bobbing up and down in the waters of the reservoir but no one dared to wade in. The waters were just too deep and it would have meant certainly death for an unskilled swimmer. As nearly a crowd of 200 people stood around it appeared as if the lass would meet her watery grave.

As her fate was being decided, on the day 32-year-old Hamid Rizwan was on the way to work.

A mason by profession Rizwan had also stopped by after seeing the crowds and the commotion in the area. Evident that no one had the guts to save the woman, Rizwan, a father of two, grabbed a rope and jumped into the waters without a second thought.

A video shot on a mobile phone of a bystander shows Rizwan swimming towards the woman who grabs on to his hand. But in an instant, both are pulled under. While the woman surfaced once more, Rizwan did not.

As bystanders bemoaned his disappearance, OIC of the Talawakelle Police station Chief Inspector Ruwan Fernando who had arrived at the location sprung into action immediately. The OIC, a father of four assisted by PC Ruban of the Talawakelle Police station jumped in with a rope and a tube to save the woman. While the duo was able to successfully save the woman she was admitted to the Talawakelle Hospital for treatment. But there was no sign of Rizwan, dead or alive. The incident that ended in tragedy had lasted a mere 30 minutes.

It was later revealed that the 23-year-old young woman, Thiruchelvan Sriyani a resident of Talawakelle had jumped from the bridge to avoid an arranged marriage. Following the incident, CI Fernando visited the woman in hospital to inquire about her health. He also advised her to attempt to make her understand the value of one’s life.

As the Police searched for Rizwan, his lifeless body was pulled out from the Upper Kotmale reservoir. He had drowned in his heroic attempt to save a stranger.

According to his mother Nilmini Kumari, Rizwan was her second child and a father of two children. “The daughter is 12 years and the son is nine years old,” she said adding that Rizwan has supported her and his father H.K Haabdeen (60) as well. Grieving for her son, Nilimini said she is worried now about the fate of his two young children.

When asked about her father’s death, his 12-year-old daughter appeared to be wise beyond her years. “We are sad but my father died trying to do a good deed. We understand that” she said.

While the final rites of Rizwan were held on May 23, residents in the area flocked to his home to pay their final respects. His cortege was accorded a Police escort as OIC Fernando and officers of the Talawakelle Police also visited to pay their respects to the hero.

His final rites were held in Ratnagiri, Lindula following Buddhist rituals at his home.

Given the plight of his family, many well-wishers will support them. Many have raised funds on behalf of the family now left destitute after the untimely death of Rizwan, who was the sole breadwinner.

The family was also granted a memento for his heroism, another donation by the Governor of the Central province.

While the incident ended in tragedy, it also became a story of human kindness which cast away all differences of religion, caste, race, and creed. Rizwan, the son of a Sinhalese mother and Muslim father had married a Tamil woman to create a multi-ethnic family. CI Fernando, PC Ruban along with Rizwan also set an example to society when they tried to save the life of a stranger casting away all forms of discrimination that plagues and divides the society today.

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