Gone ‘in a few seconds’: Final moments of Phillip Island mass drowning victims

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A relative of the four people who died in Victoria’s worst ever swimming tragedy has revealed the victims were gone “in a few seconds”.

Ankur Chhabra, the brother of Reema Sondhi who died, said more signage on the notorious beach may have stopped the family from going into the water.

Ms Sondhi, 42, Kirti Bedi, 20, and siblings Suhani Anand, 20, and Jagjeet Singh Anand, 23 were caught in a deadly rip while swimming at Forrest Caves Beach on Phillip Island the day before Australia Day.

Mr Singh was a registered nurse and was described by the organisers the GoFundMe campaign as possessing a “heart of gold”. Ms Anand and Ms Sondhi were both nursing students

The four were swimming in an unpatrolled areas of the beach, in Newhaven, when they were hit by a wave.

The beach is known for being a notoriously difficult swimming spot with dangerous rips and rough surf.

Off duty lifesavers attempted to help the four but by the time emergency services arrived, Mr Singh, Ms Bedi, and Ms Sondhi had died at the scene.

Ms Anand was flow to Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital in a critical condition; however, she died a day later.

“The family was really upset,” witness Alex Tzatzimakis, said.

“There seemed to be a group of 10 people who came here for a really nice day. Obviously it turned to tragedy.”

She said people were crying and comforting each other as beachgoers, who had brought the four people back to shore, performed CPR.

At the time of the tragic incident, Ms Sondhi had travelled from India to Melbourne to visit her brother’s family based in Clyde. She leaves behind two children, who both live in India.

On Thursday, hundreds of guests gathered at Bunurong Memorial Park at Dandenong South in Melbourne’s southeast to farewell the four.

‘In a few seconds’

At the service Mr Chhabra said the family were having “the time of their lives” at the beach.

The four were looking to exit the water, he said, with some holding hand stop stay upright in the surf. Then the wave hit and speared the group.

“In a few seconds we lost everybody,” he said.

Mr Chhabra asked why there wasn’t more signage to warn of the perils of such a dangerous spot.

Phillip Island Nature Parks told local newspaper the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times that there were signs at two entry points to the because and new digs would arrive within two months.

“Like the current signs, the new signs also show the no-swimming symbol and warn of dangerous currents and submerged objects.”

Prior to the memorial service friends of the family of the victims raised nearly $82,000 via a GoFundMe fundraising page online.

Funds were used to help pay for funeral expenses, and return flights to bring immediate family members from India to Melbourne.

Mr Chhabra the funeral ashes would be “taken back to their respective places back to India”.

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