Fatal falls

Falls from a height are the second leading cause of accidental or intentional injury deaths worldwide. In most cases, the circumstances that lead to the fall remain a mystery

There are so many instances where young and promising people met their sudden and untimely end by falling. The most recent case that stunned the capital was when 25-year-old news anchor, Radhika Kaushik, fell from the balcony of her fourth-floor apartment of a high-rise at Antriksh Forest in Noida Sector-77 on December 14. She shared the flat with Anushka Dutta, who works in an IT company.

As is mostly the case, police are all at sea as to what lead to her death. Rahul Awasthi, her senior, who was with her that evening, has been arrested. Radhika’s family accuses Awasthi of murdering her. The security guards at Antriksh Forest reportedly told the police that the two were sighted together in the balcony at around 3 am, a few minutes before she was found dead.

Noida police arrested Awasthi a day after the death, as his version of what transpired that evening was conflicting and the sequence of events inconsistent. He has been charged under Section 304: culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

“The accused told us he had never gone to the balcony. But the guards at the housing society have seen both of them drinking on the balcony. They were laughing loudly and had even hugged each other a few times. After around 10 minutes, Radhika was found dead under the balcony,” circle officer Swetabh Pandey told the media. He feels it unlikely that this was accidental as the height of the railing was fairly high — almost four feet.

Earlier this month, in a similar incident in Gurugram’s Park View City II, Naresh Hasija, a 47-year-old businessman, fell from the balcony of his ninth-floor apartment. He lived there with his wife and two children and owned multiple businesses, one of them was an ice cream stall in Kingdom of Dreams. In the absence of a suicide note, police suspect the incident is a case of accidental death, but investigations are still on.

In most cases, like the above two, it is concluded that it was a suicide due to depression, if not an accident or murder. Remember the death of one of the most promising actresses, Divya Bharati, some 25 years ago, on April 5, 1993 to be precise, when she fell from her husband’s five-storey apartment building, Tulsi 2, in Mumbai. She was not even 20 years old, and her death remains shrouded in mystery. There are many such cases — like that of iconic film director Manmohan Desai, who made classics like Amar Akbar Anthony, Coolie and Dharam Veer, was found dead after he reportedly jumped from the balcony of his flat in a multi-storeyed building in Mumbai. This was said to be a case of depression as many of his films were not doing well. He was also suffering from chronic back pain that may have prompted him to take this extreme step.

A Colombian woman was found dead in Bengaluru a week ago, after she fell from the balcony. But whether this was an accident or was she pushed off, the police are still not certain. Supraja Srinivas jumped to death with her infant son Shrihan at Bourke Street in Melbourne in 2016, as she was suffering from post-natal depression.

While some others die due to unknown reasons, like Surinder Singh Bajwa, who was the Deputy Mayor of Delhi, died around 10 years ago when he was attacked by a group of monkeys that caused him to fall from a first-floor balcony. He succumbed to severe head injuries sustained from the fall and died a day later.

Then there are cases of younger people falling off the balcony while trying to take a selfie. Not just in Delhi, but globally, so many well-known people have fallen to their death. Owen Hart, a Canadian wrestler, fell to his death on May 23, 1999. Johnny Lewis, an American actor, died in a similar fashion on September 26, 2012, though it’s not certain whether he fell or jumped after reportedly killing his 81-year-old landlady, Catherine Davis. Take the case of George D Wallace, an American actor who suffered a fall while vacationing in Italy and died from his injuries in 2005 when he was 88 years old.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), ‘falls’ — defined as an event which results in a person coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level — are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. Each year an estimated 6,46,000 individuals die from falls globally, of which over 80% are in low- and middle-income countries.

Adults older than 65 years of age suffer the greatest number of fatal falls. Factors that contribute to ‘falls’, if it’s not foul play, are alcohol or substance use; socioeconomic factors like poverty, overcrowded housing, sole parenthood, young maternal age; underlying medical conditions such as neurological, cardiac or other disabling conditions.

WHO also points that occupations at elevated heights are particularly prone. India is a good example. Every year, hundreds of the men and women workers either fall to their deaths, or are electrocuted, or are buried under rubble. There is no credible estimate, but government’s reply in Lok Sabha on March 16, 2015, says that 77 deaths occurred at construction sites across the country from 2012 to 2015.

The most recent case was a couple of months ago, when four persons, including a service engineer, died while they were working at a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) construction site at Narela in Delhi’s outskirts.

These four men were 35-feet above the ground, inside a tower crane machine when the tower crane collapsed. Whatever may be the provocations or reasons, in most of these cases the motive or the immediate cause remains a matter of speculation. Even though, Awasthi and Radhika were sighted together minutes before she fell to death, the former is only charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The investigations are on, but police are not very sure if they’d be able to establish conclusively what led to Radhika’s untimely demise.

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