A two-year-old boy trapped 26 meters (88 feet) down a well since last Friday, sparking a major rescue attempt that captivated India, has died.
The body of Sujith Wilson was pulled from the abandoned borewell hours after officials confirmed his death in a press conference in southern Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirapalli district early Tuesday.
His remains will be cremated near his village of Nadukattupatti later in the day after a church service, officials said. On Tuesday, villagers laid leaves of the calotropis, or milkweed plant, across local roads in accordance with a Hindu belief that they would ward against further accidents.
Sitting inside the family’s modest farm house, Wilson’s mother Kala Mary told CNN: “My courageous son doesn’t deserve the fatal end.”
Indians had followed every development in the days-long rescue attempt, with the hashtags #prayforsurjeeth and #sujithwilson trending on social media and Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeting his support.
Wilson fell down the borewell – a deep well drilled into the ground for irrigation or drinking water, often dug by farmers and left unmarked – near his home at about 5:45 p.m. Friday.
More than 500 people joined the 80-hour operation to save him, which included pumping oxygen into the pit and drilling another shaft parallel to the well. But it was beset by challenges.
Rescuers were able to dig down to 13.7 meters (45 feet) but were delayed by bad weather and difficult terrain underground.
“We had to stop the work multiple times for short durations … due to the showers,” Tamil Nadu official T. Shanthi said. She added that a blade used in the drilling was damaged when it hit the rock, slowing the operation.
Images showed Wilson trapped in the muddy well with his arms pinned above his head.
By Monday night local time, rescue teams realized the boy had died. His body was retrieved from the well “in a decomposed state,” according to Trichy district official S. Sivarasu.
The incident has sparked calls for tougher penalties for open borewells.
“No one should meet the same fate as Sujith,” resident Shanmugam C said.
Sivarasu said that citizens should be aware about the dangers of the open wells. “The rules are stringent,” she said. “But there is a lapse in the implementation. The district administration will be spreading awareness about it.”