The body of a Sacramento, Calif., Fiji Indian man, whose tow truck plunged into the river March 26 after colliding with a big rig, has been found after intensive search and rescue operations.
Shalvinesh ‘Shalvin’ Sharma’s body was found at 8:45 a.m. April 11. Officer Jim Young, of the California Highway Patrol’s South Sacramento division, told India-West that Sharma’s body was found floating on the Sacramento River by a resident, about five miles south of where the tow truck had flown off the Pioneer Bridge and into the river. The Yolo County Coroner’s office has identified the body as that of Sharma, noting that the cause of death remains pending. The CHP was able to identify Sharma by his uniform, which bore the name and emblem of his towing company.
On April 14, after an intensive three-day search and rescue operation, a dive team found a woman’s body in the tow truck, believed to be that of Sharma’s wife Roselyn. The Sacramento County Coroner’s office has not identified the body; a spokeswoman for the office told India-West it will likely identify the body April 16.
Donald Singh, Roselyn Sharma’s brother, expressed his frustration to India-West April 12 — before the body believed to be his sister’s was found — that search and rescue operations had not started earlier. “The dive team started today. We’ve been waiting for almost two weeks. It’s very frustrating.”
“My sister could have been found much earlier — maybe alive — if they had started search and rescue right away,” he said.
Singh could not be reached for comment April 15, after the body believed to be that of his sister was found.
Young, however, told India-West that search and rescue operations could not have begun earlier. “It would have been very dangerous for the dive team,” he said, noting that the swift-moving river was flowing at 10 knots with water so murky that divers could not see, and could only identify objects by touch.
“It’s like being in a hurricane and trying to hang on to a flag pole,” said Young. “The safety of our divers is first and foremost. We did not want another tragedy to occur.”
Also at issue was the cost of the rescue operation. Young said the CHP was not responsible for bearing the $500,000 cost, and that details had to be worked out with the Sharmas’ insurers. “Once they went into the water, we had no jurisdiction,” he said, noting that it is similar to a car stalling on the highway: the CHP will call a tow truck, and help with efforts, but will not pay for the cost of towing.
The Sharmas, believed to be of Fijian Indian descent, had two children: a son Justin, and a minor daughter who is not being identified because of her age. The couple owned Justin’s Towing, named for their son.
Sacramento residents came to the Pioneer Bridge during the search and rescue operations to support the Sharma family. A vigil was also held on March 28, two days after the couple went missing. (See earlier India-West story here: https://bit.ly/2G0a5cw)
Local media interviews with employees of Justin’s Towing and friends portrayed a friendly, generous, and happy couple. “They’re really good people. They always crack jokes, have fun," the couple's 17-year-old son Justin Sharma told KCRA News. "They were really close to everyone. It’s just sad you know. Really good people and they’re not here anymore.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the Sharmas’ children, who are now orphans. Macey Johnson, a close friend of the family, said on the fundraising page: “They built this company for their kids. Everything was for their kids.”
“They wanted a future for their kids. They didn’t want them to have to struggle. They were excellent, they were always together as a family,” said Johnson.
The GoFundMe page had raised more than $8,200 as of press time April 15. It can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2v6xYZR