A 15-year-old athlete has died and three more are critical after consuming poisonous fruit in an apparent suicide pact at a government-run sports training institute in Kerala.
The four young ladies were rowers and preparing at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Water Sports Center in Alappuzha. Two of them are national gold medalists. Their families charge that they were “not able to tolerate physical and mental torment” by their coaches
All four allegedly signed a suicide note before taking the fruit on Wednesday afternoon. The oldest, who was 15, died last night. Only one of them is conscious; she has given a statement to the police.
The four young ladies were discovered oblivious on Wednesday evening in an hostel room, no less than five or six hours after they devoured the toxic substance.
Officials say the fruit is “Cerbera odollam,” commonly known as the “suicide tree,” and found mostly in coastal salt swamps and marshy areas.
“There is no antidote to this poison. At this point we can only hope and pray,” said Injeti Srinivas, the Director General of SAI, describing the incident as “the most tragic and shocking” in three decades of SAI.
The young ladies were purportedly beaten by their coach with paddles. Their relatives say mentors in the organization are famously brutal and there have been numerous protestations before.
Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry into allegations of harassment and torture. “I have asked for a report. Sternest action will be taken if anyone from SAI is found guilty of wrongdoing.
“We have been in camps like this for months but nothing like this has happened. It is shocking and has to be investigated,” said former athlete Ashwini Nachappa.