Shakeel Ahmad, a professional hiking guide, set out for an expedition along with a group of 11 trekkers from various states and three other local guides. They started their journey to high altitude Tarsar Lake in Anantnag district of South Kashmir.
As the heavy rains swept Kashmir Valley from June 19, water level started to rise dangerously in all the water bodies. As the trekking group led by Shakeel descended from the Tarsar area on Wednesday, the team had to pass through a makeshift bridge at Hamvas made of just two logs.
“Shakeel helped the entire team of 13 to cross this bridge one-by-one while Dr Mahesh from Uttarakhand, was the last one to cross with him.
“Dr Mahesh while trying to cross the wooden bridge lost his balance and fell into the roaring river while Shakeel in order to save him jumped instantly after him without caring for his life,” an eyewitness said.
The eye witness said Shakeel would have easily swam to shore initially but he kept trying his best to save Dr Mahesh by keeping hold of him for upto 300 meters amid fast current in the river. “However the roaring water separated them both near a waterfall and they disappeared,” he added.
Soon after rescue efforts were launched to trace the missing trekkers. The body of the heroic guide Shakeel was found some 400 meters away from the accident spot in Hamvas valley of Aru on Thursday morning.
Rescue teams comprising specialist personnel from Pahalgam town, Pahalgam Rafting Association and Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering & Winter Sports Pahalgam scoured through the downstream at Hamvas to trace the bodies.
"Our team headed towards Hamvas in the wee hours of Thursday. At around 11:30 am, the body of Shakeel was spotted nearly 400 meters away from the accident spot and it was instantly taken down to Pahalgam town.
“More locals joined the rescue mission but throughout the day the second missing trekker, Dr Mahesh from Uttarakhand, remained missing", said a local rescue team member, Gowhar Ahmed.
Tehsildar Pahalgam, Mohammad Hussain, while talking to Rising Kashmir lauded the efforts of Shakeel for saving the lives of tourists.
"We roped in professional rescuers from Pahalgam itself and were assisted by locals from Pahalgam and Aru areas in retrieving the bodies.
“From multiple accounts of tourists and people who went to Hamvas for rescue I was informed how daringly Shakeel tried to save his guest from a fast flowing stream,” he said.
“Unfortunately he (Shakeel) lost his life in the incident but he left an example for all of us that how as a host he gave priority to the safety of his guests over his life", said Hussain.
The body of Shakeel was kept at Pahalgam civil hospital where it will be handed over to his family after fulfilling all the medico legal formalities.
"I am being told that Shakeel put his life at stake as soon as he saw the tourist falling in the stream. Had Shakeel not jumped into the stream which was overflowing due to intense rainfall, he would have been alive today.” Gowher, a local guide and a close friend of Shakeel, said
He said it had to be him only to attempt such a daring act of rescuing his fellow trekker.
“Shakeel was compassionate, loving, friendly and a brave man, be it any situation. He was crazy about river water rafting and trekking and would assist his fellow trekkers every time he would accompany them,” he said.
He said Shakeel would make every trekking trip a memorable one for his guests who mostly comprised non-locals.