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Friday, May 29, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bhutanese community mourns the loss of three of its own

Finding the bodies of the three missing Bhutanese men brought some closure to their loved ones, but on Thursday the families were confronting the finality of their loss.

“I’m speechless,” said Tika Ram Dhital, the father of 21-year-old Krishna Dhital. “He was the center of hope. There’s no hope now.”

As is their culture’s tradition, the family was counting on Krishna Dhital to take care of them. He planned to attend college and possibly become a dentist, family members said.

Krishna Dhital, 28-year-old Dilli Ram Bhattarai, both of Tukwila, and Bhattarai’s cousin, 17-year-old Krishna Dhakal, of Spokane, went missing on June 11 after they left a Bhutanese gathering at 1608 E. Mission Ave. about 10:30 p.m. in Dhital’s Acura. Police found the trio Wednesday when they pulled the car out of the Spokane River. They think the young men went off an embankment near the apartment complex, crashed on some rocks and ended up in the water. They’re not investigating it as a suspicious death.

“Alcohol and speed may have been a factor,” said Spokane police spokeswoman Jennifer DeRuwe. “There was a beer can found in the car.”

Autopsies will determine if the three men died from the crash or drowned, she said. The car is being dried out before investigators look for evidence.

“We don’t have the time of the crash. The families said they’d been drinking earlier in the day, but we don’t know whether they were drinking at the time of the crash,” DeRuwe said. “We may never know what happened, other than we know it was not a suspicious death. It’s just a tragedy.”

The Bhutanese community expressed appreciation Thursday for the work police had done so far.

“The families have decided to cremate the bodies according to Hindu tradition,” said Tanka Dhital, chairman of the Bhutanese Community Resource Center in SeaTac, Wash. “Per Hindu tradition, the families will be mourning for 13 days in their respective homes.”

Spokane’s Faith Bible Church International has volunteered to help with the cremation.

The Bhutanese community is close. There are about 300 Bhutanese in Spokane and 1,000 in Washington. The two cousins and Dhital knew each other because they lived in the same refugee camp in Nepal before coming to Washington.

On Thursday, those who knew and loved the three men spoke about them.

Dhakal “was a good student,” said Frank Newman, an ESL teacher at Lewis and Clark High School. “He was working very hard. He was helpful to other students in class. He always had a great smile on his face. His language was just starting to really become fluent.”

Newman had Dhakal and his sister, 16-year-old Kamala, in his class. “He loved playing soccer. He wasn’t afraid. He was fun-loving. He was respectful. He liked everybody, it didn’t matter which culture. He just enjoyed life.”

Dilli R. Bhattarai’s father, Sharman Bhattarai, said he and his son worked together in a drinking-straw factory in Tukwila. “I will miss that,” Sharman Bhattarai said through an interpreter.

The father described Dilli as a “jolly man” who was happy about his first child, a daughter named Babise. The infant was born prematurely about 25 days ago and remains in the hospital.

“I worry about taking care of my daughter-in-law and granddaughter,” Bhattarai said.

Like Dhakal, Krishna Dhital also enjoyed soccer. And he was good at it, his family said. He was expected to play in a tournament this weekend.

Dhital told family members he wanted to become a dentist so he could help his community as well as his family.

Beda Dhital, his cousin, said: “He made a big dream, but he couldn’t achieve it because he lost his life.”

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