Nova Scotia

Friends, relatives raising money to send drowning victim's body home to India

Sidharth Assija was at the lake on Wednesday when he went under the water and didn't resurface. Police announced on Friday he had died. A Facebook page has been set up to raise money to send his remains to India.

22-year-old went under the water Wednesday at Chocolate Lake and did not recover

Sidharth Assija was an international student who came to Canada in 2017. He was at a Halifax lake on Wednesday when he went under the water and didn't resurface. (Submitted by Gagan Kakkar)

Friends and relatives of a 22-year-old man who drowned at Chocolate Lake in Halifax are raising money to send his body home to his family in India.

Sidharth Assija was an international student who came to Canada in 2017. He was at the lake on Wednesday when he went under the water and didn't resurface.

"He [didn't] know how to swim ... I went to that lake like two or three times, but the thing is with that lake, you never know — suddenly there is no surface," said Anurag Gagneja, Assija's childhood friend.

A group of lifeguards undergoing training helped get him out of the water. Police, paramedics and firefighters were called at 3:10 p.m. on Wednesday.

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency said at the time that CPR was administered to the man and he was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

On Friday, Halifax Regional Police confirmed he had died.

Police speak to people at Chocolate Lake on Wednesday, shortly after Assija was rescued from the water and taken to hospital where he later died. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

Gagneja arrived at the lake after Assija went underwater. He said he and Assija were like brothers.

Both came to Canada in May 2017, first living in Toronto. After he got his degree, Assija moved to Halifax in September 2019 and Gagneja moved here in March.

Gagneja said Assija's parents have been told what happened.

A 'very jolly person'

Gagan Kakkar is married to Assija's cousin, and said the young man's parents are "shattered."

Kakkar said Assija was a "very jolly person" who was a hard worker. He said Assija only asked his parents for his first tuition fee, but then was able to support himself by working at a Domino's pizza shop.

"He was a caring person, he cared for everybody. He was very proud of what he was doing here," Kakkar said during a phone interview from Thunder Bay, Ont.

A Facebook fundraiser was launched on Friday with the goal of raising enough money to return the body to India. Gagneja estimated it could cost more than $15,000.

As of 4 p.m, on Friday, more than $20,000 had been raised.

With files from Brooklyn Currie

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