Family's grief at towpath tragedy
A 21-year-old promising student fell to his death in Bath after losing his footing on a river path.
Passers-by tried in vain to rescue popular undergraduate Kharunigan Jayanantham after he slipped while walking along the wall of the towpath of the River Avon on his way to an exam at the University of Bath this week.
Today a poignant message from one of the would-be rescuers was left at the scene.
His uncle said that Kharunigan had been a role model for his own two boys and had had "everything to live for".
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The maths student had been talking to a friend on his mobile phone when he lost his footing on a section where some of the wall is missing.
His bag tumbled onto a grass verge and he slipped into the Avon in the tragedy near Victoria Bridge on Tuesday afternoon.
His uncle, London accountant Mahen Rajan, said: "He had been walking along the wall, which is about 2ft wide, but there is a part which is missing and he lost his footing. It was a freak accident.."
There is a small, wide wall along the towpath, but there are gaps in the stones at regular intervals where metal ladders run down into the river.
Kharunigan, an only child whose family are originally from Sri Lanka, had been chair of the university Maths Society.
Mr Rajan, who has visited Bath since his nephew's death to meet police and university officials, said: "He was an example for my kids. He helped them with their 11-plus and their aim was to be him.
"He was a role model - he was very popular."
Kharunigan had worked at his uncle's contract furnishing firm for the last few summers.
"He was very close to me," Mr Rajan said.
A statement issued by the university last night said it was saddened by his death.
"The university wishes to express its deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”
An additional statement from the Department of Mathematical Sciences said: “KJ was a popular student who played a very active role in university life.
"He was the chair of the Bath University Maths Society as well as being a student representative on his department's Staff/Student Liaison Committee. He will be greatly missed by fellow students and staff."
His body had been found on Tuesday night after a three-hour rescue operation. A group of Good Samaritans risked their own lives to try to rescue him following an incident.
A new bunch of flowers had been placed on Victoria Bridge in memory of the student today.
There was also a message to him on thr back of a receipt from someone who seemed to be one of the people who tried to save him.
It read: “I never knew you but I’m sure if I had we would’ve got along great.
“I’m so sorry. We tried our hardest and I want you to know that you are in my thoughts!
“Much love Rose xxx.”
Emergency services had been called to the scene at 3.12pm, and the police helicopter was put up at one stage to search for activity from above.
Kharunigan's body was found by a team of police divers at 6.30pm.
The would-be rescuers were checked by ambulance crews and were unhurt.
The fire service sent its Bath-based rescue boat to the area but crews were unable to find anyone and the divers were later called in.
Avon and Somerset Police said they were treating the matter as a sudden death and that there were no suspicious circumstances.
They have since passed the matter over to the coroner, whose officials will investigate the death in preparation for an inquest.
The incident came just two weeks after the body of a 50-year-old man was recovered from the river.
Police and firefighters had launched a search operation after the man’s body had been spotted by passers-by at the bridge.
* If you are Rose - or one of the other rescuers - and would like to share your experience, please contact the Chronicle using the box below