Three college students sacrificed their lives to rescue two drowning kids on the Yangtze River. Their bodies were dragged behind a boat of a local mafia with political connections in the water when their boss was negotiating ranson with the university administrators. Despite tearful pleas from 40 some students and professors at the scene, the mafia refused to release the bodies while waiting for the money to be retrieved in four hours.
An investigative report by the Shanghai TV presented the complete story to people outside for the first time.
The scene of the tragic accident was a popular tourist destination and busy fishing resource. When the two kids fell to the water by accident in bright daylight (2pm), however, no local people dare to rescue. A local mafia with political connections enjoys a monopoly in the body recovering business. They pocket 12,000 RMB Yuan ($2,000) to recover a body in daytime, and 18,000 RMB ($3,000) Yuan for a night job. Anyone dares to save drowning people will be attacked, their boats burned. Fishermen were blamed by initial media for leaving the scene after the accident, but actually they said they were fleeing so that not to get into trouble.
The college students who were holding a picnic were not from the local area so they did not know the rule. After getting the two kids out of the river, the human chain broke, and 9 students fell to the water. At this time, there were several boat right at the scene, as close as within 3 yards but they quickly drove away.
Half an hour later, local Maritime Affairs officials and local Paramilitary firemen (firemen in China are active duty armed police under the military, similar to the status of Coast Guard in the US) arrived the scene but all refused to get into the water, citing conflict of interests with the mafia.
40 minutes later, the mafia boats arrived. They soon found two drowned students. They did not remove them from the water to check, but rather tied their hands to the the boat, and dragged them behind in the water while they urged the other students and professors to raise money. The mafia insisted they would have to wait until the $24,000 cleared before they look for the third one. 12,000 RMB Yuan is a big sum of money and they do not have that much. Some students were sent back to the university to collect money. It took them 4 hours to get the money. However, it was about the evening, and the mafia now demand to trade at the 18,000 night rate.
At the end, students got bodies back after clearing the deal at price set by the mafia.
The Jingzhou police refused to charged the mafia even after the media exposure. The local police complained no law regulating this area and urge the government to make laws.