It has been a little more than two weeks since Raghavaiah Kristipati's two sons drowned in the waters of Lake Ontario. He admits he hasn’t slept since that night.
“Everywhere we see them. Everywhere we hear them. Their words are echoing in our ears,” he told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday.
Aug. 15 was supposed to be a fun day for the Kristipati family at the beach.
To celebrate India’s Independence Day, and enjoy an afternoon with family, they decided to go to Scarborough’s Bluffer’s Park Beach. It’s a spot the family has visited many times before.
Kristipati said his two sons were playing beach volleyball in the shallow water just after 7:30 that evening when they heard calls for help.
“We could hear some cries. Someone is drowning, someone is drowning,” Kristipati said. His younger son, 23-year-old Kamal, went with several others to help. Kristipati said Kamal was a strong swimmer, and was known for helping others. The visual of his son heading to help haunts the grieving father.
“I could see him swimming towards the water that was the thing still stuck in my mind,” he said.
When Kamal got to the area of the child in distress, his father says he too ran into trouble with the water’s currents. That’s when his elder son, 29-year-old Pavan swam out to help his brother.
Kristipati says he ran down the beach to get closer to where his boys were.
“I could see my elder son's hands was still swirling in the water. I wanted to jump down but at least 20 people held me and then they said no, no the water currents are great.”
Kristipati said he wishes he too had gone into the water to help his boys, admitting he felt helpless on the shore.
“I was shouting 'My son is going down, please let me go, let me go' but no one allowed me.”
Pavan, a mechnical engineer who was married with an eight-month-old-son, was pulled from the water, but died a short time later. His father says he was an organ donor and the family was able to donate needed organs and tissues to several people.
Kamal’s body was found the next day after a large scale search by police.
Overcome with emotion, tears rolled down Kristipati’s face as he said how was proud he is of his sons. It’s a sentiment he says was echoed by police at the scene.
“The first police officer came to me and then said ‘You need not worry, your sons are heroes. That’s what’s still going in my ears.”
As tragic as the drownings were, they were not the first at that beach on that day. Just two hours earlier boaters had found a body floating in the water just off the beach.
Kristipati wonders why authorities didn’t close the beach while they investigated.
He also wants to know why there is nothing marking the deep water, or high current areas of the lake near the beach.
“The water was very still. Nobody knows what was going underneath. They should have given at least some warnings, red tape or red flags- some warnings. There were no warnings.”
And, with lifeguards off duty at 6:30 p.m., but the beach still crowded well after that, Kristipati wants to know why there aren’t more floatation and rescue devices to help those who get in trouble while in the water.
Ali Khan, a member of the Dixon Friends and Sports Committee, said he supports the Kirstipati family’s call for improved safety features at the beach.
He said he wants to see “stringent water safety policies at Bluffer’s Park. Especially with informing people and educating people about the characteristics about the water there- especially the undertow and the dangerous currents that is not visible. Whether you be a seasoned swimmer or someone that is brand new, everyone should go in with precaution.”
Kristipati says he’s been in touch with the mayor’s office, and says he won’t stop fighting until he’s confident that his son’s deaths were not in vain, hoping they can prevent this type of tragedy from happening to anyone else.
“Please take some concrete steps so that no parent will cry again, no youngster will drown again.”