A mother and father of two children, as well as another parent relative of the couple, were found dead after falling through the ice on Woods Canyon Lake in Arizona.
The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) identified the victims as 49-year-old Narayana Rao Muddana and his wife, Haritha Muddana. The third victim was 47-year-old Gokul Mediseti. All three were living in Chandler, Arizona.
A statement released by officials with CCSO said the deputies in Forest Lakes responded to a call about three missing people in Woods Canyon Lake on Monday afternoon. The authorities responded on December 27 and were able to recover Haritha. Their attempts to resuscitate her were unsuccessful. Her husband and Mediseti were found the next day.
The spokesman from CCSO Jon Paxton, said the trio was part of a three-family group consisting of 11 people who live in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, wanting to enjoy the outdoors a day after Christmas.
“They were up here, recreationally, enjoying it. Wanted to get some pictures out on the ice.”
Jon Paxton, spokesman of Coconino County Sheriff’s Office
Rescue ends up in tragedy
Reports said the incident happened on December 26 at 3:35 p.m. According to Paxton, the victims were on the lake, wanting to get some pictures when the ice broke and they all fell into the 30-degree water.
“We were really shocked and shaken. I wasn’t able to speak for a moment,”
Kishore Pittala, a close friend of the Muddana family
According to a close family friend Kishore Pittala, seven people, including two children, fell into the ice. Their friends ran out to help, including Mediseti. Reports stated his wife and child were present at the lake when the incident occurred. One of the women managed to pull two children and two adults to safety. However, Muddana, Haritha and Mediseti never resurfaced.
“It is a tough situation, so first thing is we are in shock and we are really worried about the kids,” Pittala said.
After the incident, the Arizona Department of Child Safety was called on Monday to Forest Lakes to temporarily take custody of Muddana’s children, who are 7 and 12 years old.
“We wanted to make sure they felt as safe as possible. Tried to keep them warm and away from the scene as best we could,” Paxton said.
Muddana’s brother-in-law Naresh Bobo said the authorities identified the girls as minors and could be sent to India to live with blood relatives. They could be with their paternal or maternal grandparents.
Rallying for support
On Monday night, Pittala and other family friends went to Payson to bring Muddana’s daughters home from DSC custody.
Pittala, having lived next door to the Muddanas for the last year, said she and the rest of the tight-nit neighborhood were still looking after the orphaned girls’ wellbeing.
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“I’m still a little bit shocked, to be honest with you. So, I’m still looking at how these two kids … what’s their future? All that stuff. Most of the people are coming to see, to look after, and see the kids, how they are doing, and everything …” Pittala said.
Ever since they moved in within weeks of each other, they all had seen each other every day. Pittala and Muddana’s children all go to the same school, with Muddana taking them to school in the morning and Pittala picking them up in the afternoon.
According to the report, the community is mourning and has come together to support the two families affected by the incident.
“He’s [Muddana] a very fun, loving guy. He’s very kind at heart. Loved his kids,” Pittala said.
Muddana’s daughters reportedly will be leaving for India soon to stay with their grandparents. However, according to the president of the Arizona Telugu Association Venkat Kommineni, people have been saying they want to help the girls directly.
“I think five people reached out to me saying, ‘Are these kids up for adoption? We would like to take care of them,'” Kommineni said.