A holiday at a popular tourist destination in Oklahoma ended in the death of two students from University of Texas at Arlington. Ajay Kumar Koyalamudi, 23, of Raichur in Karnataka and Teja Koushik Voleti, 23, of Ongole in Andhra Pradesh, drowned at Turner Falls, Sept. 3. The falls are located about 250 miles from the university.
News reports say Voleti allegedly lost his balance at the swimming hole near the falls and fell, after which Koyalamudi dove in. However, both of them never made it back.
The Associated Press reported that men were not wearing life jackets and that both were not good swimmers. Police say they received a call for a person in distress around 10 a.m. then received a call about a second person in distress at the falls. Officers found the bodies in the middle of a pool of water about nine to 10 feet deep. No lifeguards were reportedly hired by the City of Davis where the falls are located.
A witness, Omayra Escogido, told KTEN she saw one of the young men as he started going under. She and her friends called 911 and tried to offer help by tossing a flotation device in the water. "We threw it at him, but it didn't reach all the way over there," she told the news channel.
The park has now closed the swimming hole after the incident. The swimming hole, diving board and slide usually close on Oct. 1.
Koyalamudi, who was studying Construction Engineering Management, had left for Texas in December 2018 after completing his Bachelor of Civil Engineering at New Horizon College of Engineering in Bengaluru’s Marathalli, according to The New Indian Express.
Voleti was an engineering student who had completed his Bachelor’s degree from Anna University, Chennai. He was pursuing a Masters degree in Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington.
The Telugu Association of America is said to be working with the Consulate General of India in Houston to help transport the bodies to India. A GoFundMe page has also been started by friends of Koyalamudi and Voleti to help with the funeral expenses and to pay off their education loans.
On the GoFundMe page, friends describe the two as “compassionate human beings” who will always be remembered by their friends and families. “Their dreams and aspirations along with the families ended with the tragic accident,” the page says.
But this is not the first time that someone has drowned at the falls. Last year alone more than six people reportedly drowned at the site, among them two Indian-Americans - 27-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man who died in separate incidents.
The woman, who news reports said was from India but living in the Dallas area wasn’t identified. But reports in the Indian media at the time identified the man as Nune Suresh, a software engineer who lived with his family in Dallas. He was visiting the falls with his family for a picnic over the July 4 weekend.