Man drowns off Cherry Grove

by Michael K. Lavers
National News Editor
Monday Jul 20, 2009

A man from Queens drowned Saturday afternoon while swimming near Ivy Walk in Cherry Grove.

The Suffolk County Police Department identified the man as Rahul Bhola, 22, of Flushing. Bhola was swimming in chest deep water with another man around 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 18. Police said he stepped further into the water and a strong current pulled him out to sea. The man with whom Bhola was swimming unsuccessfully tried to rescue him.

Members of the Cherry Grove Fire Department and lifeguards from Sailors Haven were among those who responded to the scene. They performed life saving measures on Bhola on the beach. A Suffolk County Police helicopter transported Bhola to Stony Brook University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Ismael Flores of Astoria, Queens, told the Fire Island News he saw a number of firefighters pull someone out of the water as he lay on the beach. He said hundreds of people were on the beach at the time, but a persistent southwesterly flow had kicked-up the surf. Flores further described the man firefighters pulled out of the ocean as having a bloody eye and cuts around his eyebrow and near his hairline.

"He looked like wax," Flores said.

Members of the Cherry Grove Community Association held a moment of silence in Bhola's memory at their annual summer meeting yesterday.

"I was just begging to God not to take him," Flores said. "It was just a tragedy."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.


  • , 2009-08-16 09:10:04

    I am devastated. I just had not heard from my dear friend whom I met at the University of Northern Iowa. We didn’t talk much. But when we did they were marathon phone calls. Talking to him made me miss him and reminded me of how I wanted to be living in New York enjoying his company. My girlfriend did chat with him almost daily. Instant messaging each another during their times online, as Rahul navigated through New York City alone .His family was in India. They sent him to America to get an education and send money home as soon as he could. Once I made it to NYC, he had promised to show me around. Although, I may not be as fit as any of New York’s proud pedestrians, he would take his time to show me. Not in a New York minute but in a manner that displayed Rahul’s own admiration for the American way of life. It pleased him to be so fortunate. He was a vibrant 22 year man who enjoyed his freedom, only to have been betrayed by someone he cared deeply for. This person now lives in Chicago. This same man told his family in India that Rahul was gay, but of course left himself in the closet. Rahul’s family wanted him dead. He had brought shame to the family. His parents forbid Rahul’s beloved sister to never speak to him. This was agonizing for him, he missed his sister so much. Yes, his mother too. After Rahul’s father threatened his life(style). My friend was granted asylum and now lived in fear of his family abducting him from school or work only to take him home to India to a place where no one would hear from him again or fix it to where he was straight and ready to have an Indian wife. We had feared for his life. He had friends here in San Antonio, TX who loved very much. I can’t even put into perspective how helpless I feel reading about what happened. I am horrified at the fact Rahul’s death was an accident. There’s a part of me that feels there may have been foul play. But I’m in denial that his family would do such a horrible thing. His family wanted him gone because he was a gay Indian man and because he disrespected them, and he shamed them for being who he was. Rahul was a beautiful man with eyes that were mesmerizing. He was tall and statuesque. He was a true gentleman. His smile... Good bye... Loved you and will greatly miss you. Melissa

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