Purdue grad student who jumped last year from bridge presumed dead


LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue grad student Anik Paul stepped off the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge in the wee hours of July 3, 2023, and other than the first officers who saw him flailing in the river after his jump, he’s not been seen since.

After months of searching the Wabash River from Attica to the pedestrian bridge, no one has found Paul’s body.

In his 18 years as an Indiana conservation officer, Lt. Blaine Gillam can recall only two incidents in which a victim’s body has not been recovered from a river or lake.

The first was 4-year-old Owen Jones, who drowned in Deer Creek on May 23, 2019, when he was swept away by the strong current after heavy rains. Owen’s body was never found despite a search that continued the entire summer.

Anik Paul, a 31-year-old Purdue graduate student from Bangladesh, leaped from the John T. Myer Pedestrian Bridge just before 3 a.m. July 3, 2023. He's not been seen or heard from since. The missing person case remains open but unsolved.Anik Paul, a 31-year-old Purdue graduate student from Bangladesh, leaped from the John T. Myer Pedestrian Bridge just before 3 a.m. July 3, 2023. He's not been seen or heard from since. The missing person case remains open but unsolved.

Anik Paul, a 31-year-old Purdue graduate student from Bangladesh, leaped from the John T. Myer Pedestrian Bridge just before 3 a.m. July 3, 2023. He’s not been seen or heard from since. The missing person case remains open but unsolved.

The other is Paul, who leaped from the bridge just before 3 a.m.

“It’s never a good feeling when we get a report of someone in the water,” Gillam said, noting they want to rescue the person or at least find recover the missing person’s remains.

“That weighs on us, too,” he said about not finding drowning victims’ bodies.

“Rivers are different,” Gillam said about water rescue and recovery efforts fighting the currents, the debris and obstacles that can be a danger to divers. “It’s harder to get divers into a moving body of water.”

West Lafayette police detective Lt. Jon Eager said they’ve investigated every lead they’ve uncovered and still don’t know where Paul is or what prompted him to jump.

Police know Paul was 31, from Bangladesh and a graduate student at Purdue. He messaged his friend about 2:40 a.m. July 3, 2023, saying the water wasn’t deep enough.

More: The last known communications from missing Purdue student

The friend found the message disturbing and called police out of concern, police said last year. Paul’s message did not specify what body of water wasn’t deep enough, so officers began searching bodies of water in the West Lafayette and Lafayette area.

One officer was near the Celery Bog when the call came in, and he searched the bog. Then he headed toward Tapawingo Park, arriving at 2:50 a.m., Eager said last year. That officer heard someone in the water and saw splashing between the John T. Myers Pedestrian Bridge and the South Street bridge.

That man flailing in the river shrouded by darkness was the last glimpse of Paul by another person.

Paul’s family’s yearlong struggle without him

“Still now we don’t have any clear idea behind the reason of Anik’s disappearance from (the) bridge,” Anik’s sister, Bithi Paul, wrote in an email Wednesday to the Journal & Courier. “Police cannot give us any information about my brother after that incident.”

Anik Paul, a 31-year-old Purdue graduate student from Bangladesh, leaped from the John T. Myer Pedestrian Bridge just before 3 a.m. July 3, 2023. He's not been seen or heard from since. The missing person case remains open but unsolved.Anik Paul, a 31-year-old Purdue graduate student from Bangladesh, leaped from the John T. Myer Pedestrian Bridge just before 3 a.m. July 3, 2023. He's not been seen or heard from since. The missing person case remains open but unsolved.

Anik Paul, a 31-year-old Purdue graduate student from Bangladesh, leaped from the John T. Myer Pedestrian Bridge just before 3 a.m. July 3, 2023. He’s not been seen or heard from since. The missing person case remains open but unsolved.

Police don’t have any more information about Anik after he jumped, Eager said several times during interviews with the J&C over the last year.

“We don’t have any reason to believe he’s alive based on all the evidence we have,” Eager said last week.

Anik’s apparent death leaves his family in Bangladesh emotionally and financially devastated, Bithi Paul said in her email.

“My parents are still alive for him back and waiting for their son,” wrote Bithi, who is not quite fluent in English. “And I am struggling with all issues including financial problem because Anik was responsible for family financial supports.”

Officially a missing person

Eager noted that they continue to try to get DNA from Anik’s family so that if or when his remains are discovered, investigators can positively identify them.

Gillam noted that conservation officers sometimes get calls about bones discovered in or near rivers, and they have experts determine whether the bones are human or animal.

Having DNA on file will be helpful if Anik’s remains are found, Eager said.

Gillam encourages water safety

“We obviously encourage wearing a life jacket,” Gillam said about people playing in the water.

Even people who are familiar with the creek, river or lake can be caught by surprise by something unexpected, he said.

“By the time you realize it, it’s swept you away,” Gillam said.

Owen Jones, the 4-year-old, is a prime example of how a life jacket might have spared his life by keeping him afloat in the swift current.

Paul’s intentions for jumping into the river, however, appear to reflect a personal struggle as opposed to recreational swimming.

People with thoughts of harming themselves may call or text 988, a 24/7 lifeline number that connects the person to mental health professionals.

Reach Ron Wilkins at rwilkins@jconline.com. Follow on Twitter: @RonWilkins2.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Purdue student from Bangladesh who jumped from bridge presumed dead



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