NEW DELHI (NYTIMES) - More than three days after a two-year-old boy slid some 30m into a tiny borehole in southern India, setting off a panicked round-the-clock mission to rescue him, his body was pulled from the opening early on Tuesday morning (Oct 29).
Officials said they had done everything they could to reach the boy, Sujith Wilson, who fell into the hole while playing near his house on Friday evening.
Rescuers with India's disaster management response team pumped oxygen into the muddy pit, a primitive well that measured a few feet wide and was thought to extend more than 150m into the earth.
They lowered a rope and managed to get it tied around the boy's hands several times before the knots slipped.
As Sujith sank deeper into the pit, the workers used a drilling machine to dig a larger, parallel hole, hoping to merge the two and lower men down to help. Over the weekend, Sujith's mother, Kalairani, started stitching a white cloth pouch for rescuers to put her son in.
With a microphone, she and her husband leaned over the opening many times in the initial hours and told him not to cry, bursting into tears when they stepped away, according to people at the scene.
Later, a camera lowered into the hole showed that the toddler had fallen unconscious: He was jammed in the dark cavity, his arms caught above his head.
The urgency rose as rain started to wash over their village, Nadukattupatti, in the state of Tamil Nadu. More than 1,000 people had gathered.
"My prayers are with the young and brave Sujith Wilson," Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter. "Every effort is being made to ensure that he is safe."
But the authorities were unable to rescue him in time.
Mr J. Radhakrishnan, the transportation department's principal secretary, told Asian News International that a bad smell had started coming from the hole late on Monday.
By early on Tuesday morning, Sujith's body was pulled out in a "decomposed state", he said.
It is unclear whether the hole was covered at any point before Sujith started playing near it on Friday evening.
Earlier this year, the state government of Punjab ordered criminal action against those who do not plug boreholes, a common feature on India's farms, where they are used to extract water. Many sit dry and abandoned.
In June, a two-year-old child fell into a pit in Punjab and remained trapped for 110 hours without food and water before rescuers pulled out his lifeless body.
On Tuesday morning, as a crowd gathered for Sujith's funeral, officials vowed to fill the hole with concrete before leaving.
Mourners from several villages covered the boy's coffin with bright flowers.