An Indian stuntman who went missing in the Hooghly River on Sunday after attempting a Houdini-style daredevil stunt is feared drowned, according to authorities.
Chanchal Lahiri was tied up with steel chains and rope and slowly lowered into the water for the escape stunt near the Howrah Bridge in Kolkata. He was expected to free himself and emerge out of the water, as he had done many times before.
But onlookers waited for about 30 minutes before launching a frantic search along the banks and in the water. They have so far been unable to find him.
Rescue workers have been scouring the fast-flowing, murky waters since Sunday, Syed Waquar Raza from the river traffic police told Agence France-Presse. “We fear he drowned in the river,” he said.
Lahiri, 40, popularly known as “Jadugar Mandrake” – which translates to “Wizard Mandrake” or “Mandrake the Magician” – was lowered into the river by a crane as family members, media and police watched from afar, the agency reported.
Jayanta Shaw, a photographer with a local newspaper, told CNN how the trick usually unfolded: Lahiri would break free from his bonds, swim ahead and emerge.
“When he failed to emerge from the river for a while, the authorities began the search,” said Shaw.
Lahiri said he wanted to perform the stunt to promote the performance of magic, which has become unpopular despite its traditional roots in the country, Shaw recounted.
The organizers had received the necessary permissions to perform the stunt and on-duty police officers were patrolling the bridge. No policemen were specifically assigned to monitor the act, said Shaw.
Before making the attempt Sunday, Lahiri described a previous stunt in the same location two decades ago. He said: “I was inside a bulletproof glass box tied with chain and locks and dropped down from Howrah Bridge. Then I came out within 29 seconds.”
Shaw, who witnessed that stunt back in 1998, lamented that it seemed the magician’s luck had run out.