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World News

18 Jun 2019

Indian magician Chanchal Lahiri drowns attempting Houdini trick

Indian magician Chanchal Lahiri drowns attempting Houdini trick
BBC:

An Indian magician who was lowered into a river while shackled in a bid to recreate Harry Houdini's world-famous trick has drowned, police confirmed.

Chanchal Lahiri was meant to escape and swim to safety but did not emerge from the Hooghly river in West Bengal state.

Crowds who watched him take the plunge on Sunday alerted the police, who then launched a search operation.

His body, which washed up some 1km (0.6 miles) from the site of the incident, was identified late on Monday.

Mr Lahiri, also known as Mandrake, was lowered into the river from a boat for his trick.

He was shackled with six locks and a chain as spectators on two boats watched him.

Several people had also gathered by the shore and some stood on the landmark Howrah Bridge in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).

According to the Press Trust of India, the crowd started to panic after Mr Lahiri did not appear after more than 10 minutes.

Jayanta Shaw, a photographer with a local newspaper, witnessed Mr Lahiri attempting the trick. He told the BBC that he spoke to him before the magician started his act.

"I asked him why he risked his life for magic," Mr Shaw said. "He [Mr Lahiri] smiled and said, 'If I do it right, it's magic. If I make a mistake, it becomes tragic.'"

The magician told him that he wanted to do this trick in order "to revive interest in magic".

This is not the first time that Mr Lahiri had attempted a risky underwater trick.

He was lowered into the same river inside a glass box more than 20 years ago but had managed to escape to safety.

Mr Shaw had also witnessed Mr Lahiri's previous underwater trick.

"I never thought he would not come out of the water this time," he said.

According to Press Trust of India, Mr Lahiri had sought permission from the Kolkata Police and Kolkata Port Trust before performing his trick.

However, he did not mention that the trick would have a "connection with water", said police.

"He had mentioned the act was to happen in a boat or vessel... hence we allowed him permission. He vaguely mentioned an 'extra act' which we did not clarify," said a police officer who was not identified. "We are investigating."

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