22-year-old student from India identified as man who died cliff diving at Mactaquac
Aranyam Bora was a fourth-year student at St. Thomas University
Milly Squires is still trying to figure out how her athletic and healthy 22-year-old boyfriend died after jumping off the cliffs at the Mactaquac Headpond on Wednesday afternoon.
Aranyam Bora, who usually went by Ary, was a competitive bodybuilder and martial artist and was in incredible physical condition, said Squires, a McAdam native and third-year St. Thomas University student.
Squires said Bora told her he was going cliff diving at the headpond, about 20 kilometres west of Fredericton, with a friend on Wednesday.
She said he was a bit of daredevil and had previously talked about jumping off bridges.
She said she didn't worry about him until he didn't text her "good night" at the end of the day.
Several text messages to him went unanswered and, by Thursday morning, she started to panic. She contacted the friend who was with him at Mactaquac the day before and heard what happened.
His body was found by RCMP divers just before noon on Thursday.
Bora was a fourth-year St. Thomas University student, majoring in political science and international relations. He was from India and came to New Brunswick to study.
Squires said she and Bora were opposites — she the introvert, and he "just the absolute opposite."
She recalls sitting with him under a bridge this past summer and him trying to flag down boaters to try to make new friends.
"He was wonderful … kind, caring, so compassionate. He loved life. He loved his family so much. He loved India and he loved just making people smile."
Squires said he was the life of the party.
"He brought a smile to everyone's face who knew him. His energy was just contagious as soon as you walked into any room with him."
She has spoken with the friend who was with Bora. She said the woman used his phone to film his cliff diving for his Instagram account. Squires hopes the footage will help determine what happened to him.
The RCMP, although they haven't named him, said Bora initially surfaced but soon started to appear in distress. They say a witness jumped in to try to help but was unsuccessful and he went under and didn't resurface.
Squires was told that Bora appeared to be fine after the jump, but soon started flailing his arms. The friend tried to help, but "he just kept pushing her under." She managed to get back to shore, but he didn't.
Squires hopes the cellphone footage will help give some answers.
RCMP Const. Hans Ouellette said an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. No other details were available, he said.
Squires said she had never been to the cliffs at the Mactaquac Headpond and doesn't think Bora had ever been there either.
Sarah Kohut, the president of the St. Thomas University Students' Union, wasn't familiar with the cliffs either and said she wasn't sure how well-known they were to students.
But locals say the spot has been popular with young people for decades.
Larry Jewett, who owns the Mactaquac Marina, has lived in the area his whole life and people have been jumping off the cliffs for as long as he can remember.
He said people continued to frequent the site even after NB Power, which owns the land, erected a fence and signs a few years ago.
The cliffs are located between the dam and the Riverside Resort. A dirt road leads from the main road, but there's a gate across it.
"People were still getting around," said Jewett.
Mactaquac fire Chief Murray Crouse is also familiar with the area. He said the fencing, even with signs, "doesn't seem to deter them."
He said it's about a six or seven-metre drop to the surface of the headpond and about 15 metres (50 feet) of water below.
"There's lots of water there, so I'm not sure what happened," Crouse said on Friday.
The water on Thursday morning was still about 19 C, he said.
When asked about whether young people should dive at the site, he said, "They probably shouldn't, but I don't know how you would stop it."
One of the signs, posted at the gate says, "Danger. Keep out. Access beyond this point may result in drowning."
Since the measures were put in place in 2015, the gate has been wrecked, barbed wire at the top of the fence has been cut, and a hole was made through the fence.
Despite repeated attempts by CBC News, a spokesperson for NB Power did not not respond to a request for an interview.
The impact of Bora's death, meanwhile, has "resonated" across STU's small campus, where "everyone knows everyone," said Kohut.
She encourages anyone who may be struggling to reach out. She said the university is providing a number of resources, including drop-in sessions in the student lounge in Sir James Dunn Hall on Saturday and Monday from noon to 4 p.m.
For those off-campus, an online Zoom session has been organized for Saturday at noon.