TRIBUTES have been paid to a Southampton couple who died in a horror smash while on holiday in India.
Roopesh Nawarkhele, 38, and his wife Kavita, 37, were killed instantly when their coach overturned after colliding with a car.
Witnesses said that their nine-year-old daughter Ananya was sitting on her parents’ lap when the accident happened and she is now in a hospital near Chandigarh in the Punjab state and is being treated for serious injuries.
Last night members of Southampton’s Hindu community paid tribute to the couple and prayed for Ananya’s recovery.
The youngster is believed to be conscious but has suffered severe injuries below her stomach and doesn’t yet know that her parents have died.
Last night doctors were discussing moving her to a hospital in Delhi.
Three students, studying in Chandigarh, travelling in a car that struck the coach, died in the crash and 15 other bus passengers were injured.
Indian police are investigating the incident and have arrested the bus driver on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
Roopesh worked as a senior practitioner in children’s services at Southampton City Council and his wife as a deputy manager at Sunshine Day Nursery in Shirley.
They had travelled to India on July 28 to visit family and were due to return home on Friday.
The family were making the 300-mile overnight bus journey to Delhi from Dharasamala when the bus crashed near Chandigarh at 2am on Saturday.
The vehicle – owned by The Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) – overturned, hitting a Swift car going towards Mohali, Punjab.
Family friend and colleague Amol Khamkar, who lives in the same block of flats as the couple in Bitterne, is still coming to terms with the tragedy.
The couple first met while studying at the Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work in Mumbai before Roopesh settled in Southampton for work in 2007 – two years before his family joined him.
Mr Khamkar, who was due to pick up the family from the coach station when they arrived back, said: “They were a lovely family. They loved life and Ananya was their focus.
“He was like a brother to me. He was my friend, philosopher and guide.”
Mr Khamkar said his friend was well respected in his career and added: “I was lucky to have him here when I was so far away from our motherland.
“He will be a big loss for Southampton and for the community. He was a very thorough professional.
“We are keeping Ananya in our prayers for her speedy recovery.”
Roopesh and Kavita both joined the Parents Teacher Association at Ananya’s school Bitterne Manor and were well known in the town’s Hindu community.
Kavita presented a show on the station Unity 101, while Roopesh was a keen photographer, often taking photos at events at the Vedic Society Hindu Temple.
Temple priest Ritesh Bhatt said last night: “My wife and I still can’t believe it.
“He was a very genuine person and wanted to do things for people and take pictures at events. At the moment all we can do is pray.”
Vinod Desai, chief executive of Art Asia, where Roopesh regularly attended events, said: “My prayers are with their family and friends and I hope the daughter is comfortable in hospital.”