Friend recalls moments before university student drowned in North Thompson River in Kamloops

Rahul Asnani is pictured in this undated photo submitted by his friend and former roommate Mubashir Rahman. The two met a year ago when he first moved to Kamloops.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Mubashir Rahman

KAMLOOPS —  After a night celebrating a friend’s birthday, Mubashir Rahman decided it was time to go home in the early morning of May 3.

It had just gotten light outside when he hopped off the bus near his apartment by the Thompson River. He noticed Kamloops Search and Rescue crews, police and an ambulance set up at a riverbank where the North and South Thompson Rivers meet.

Rahman, 25, didn’t think much of it. He had left his friends who were celebrating Rahul Asnani’s 23rd birthday at an apartment on the North Shore.

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He had no idea his friends ventured to the river for some pre-dawn photos. He had no idea they were searching for Asnani, that he had fallen into the swollen river and was swept away. 

“It was Rahul’s wish to see the sunrise that morning,” he says. "I still can't believe it."

More than 24 hours later, Kamloops RCMP announced they had recovered Asnani's body from the river

“This appears to be nothing less than a truly tragic accident,” Kamloops RCMP Sgt. Mat Van Laer said in a press release.

Initially, police reports said the men were swimming. Rahman says this is wrong.

Asnani was posing for a picture along the riverbank when he slipped off a rock and fell in. The fast moving river carried him away almost instantly. 

When Rahman was home after leaving his friends that morning, he got a call from his from friend Viraj Vaghani who was with Asnani that morning along with Ish Sharma. That's when he learned Asnani was missing.

Vaghani told him that after Rahul fell in the water, Sharma went in to save him and they nearly lost him too. 

“Ish tried to save him but then I saved Ish, but I could not save Rahul,” Rahman says, quoting his friend.

Rahman took a cab to the hospital, still somehow believing he would find all three of his friends there.

“I was thinking if Viraj and Ish are here in hospital, then Rahul would be there for sure,” he says.

After Asnani's death, police put out a statement advising people with little to no swimming experience to stay away from water without proper safety gear or supervision.

They're all international students and not familiar with the area or the rivers.

“Before this, I had never heard about a body being lost in water,” Rahman says.

Rahman and Asnani are both from India. Asnani moved to Kamloops just more than a year ago to study at Thompson Rivers University in the School of Business and Economics. The two met at an orientation and eventually became close friends and were even roommates at one point sharing one room.

“He was not only a roommate, but family as well,” he says.

His mother originally wanted Asnani to go to Toronto to study, he says, but once Asnani saw photos of the mountains and river in Kamloops, there was no changing his mind.

“If you go through his phone you can see all the photos he has taken in one year,” Rahman says. He says Asnani loved to watch the sunrise and set.

Rahman has photos of Asnani right before he fell. The photos show Asnani balancing on a rock. It’s the last photos that were taken of him. Rahman says he wishes to keep those photos private between close friends and Asnani's family.

He's been in contact with Asnani's family in India.

Despite the distance, Asnani was especially close to his mother and younger sister.

"The reason why I looked to this guy for motivation is because he always used to talk to his mom, no matter what the circumstances were," he says. "He used to wake up his sister every morning by calling his mom and asking her to put him on speaker."

When he thinks of Asnani, he remembers a kind, adventurous person who loved to cook meals for his friends.

"We shared everything," he says. 

Rahul Asnani's body was recovered from the North Thompson River after he slipped off a rock and into the water on May 3. His body was recovered by RCMP's underwater team on May 4. The area is just off of Chestnut Avenue near Overlander's Memorial.
Rahul Asnani's body was recovered from the North Thompson River after he slipped off a rock and into the water on May 3. His body was recovered by RCMP's underwater team on May 4. The area is just off of Chestnut Avenue near Overlander's Memorial.

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