India Diaspora
Mumbai girl Minal confirmed dead in US shootout
Apr 18, 2007 - 2:03:15 PM

Mumbai, April 18 - Indian student Minal Hiralal Panchal, who had been missing after a gunman went on a shooting spree at the Virginia Tech University, has been confirmed dead by the Indian embassy in the US.

The 26-year-old, who was pursuing masters in building science, was in the Norris Hall when the shooting took place Monday in the Blacksburg town university.

Minal's family, which is from Mumbai's western suburbs of Borivili, was in the US at the time.

Neighbours at her fifth-floor apartment in Borivili West's Park View residence said Minal's mother left for the US two weeks ago while her elder sister Kavita is married and lives in the US.

'Minal's mother left to visit Kavita, who lives in New Jersey with her husband. Minal's father Hiralal, an architect, passed away a couple of years back after a cardiac arrest,' said a neighbour.

Minal passed out from Mumbai's Our Lady of Remedy High School at Poinsur in Kandivili in 1996. After gaining a science degree from Mithibhai College, she studied at the Rizvi College of Architecture in Bandra.

An ardent fan of Ayn Rand's 'The Fountainhead', Minal chose to follow in her father's footsteps and become an architect. To her friends and former classmates, she was an intelligent and friendly girl.

'Last year she gave her GRE and TOEFL exams and was selected at the Virginia Tech on the basis of her high scores. She was eager to join Kavita in the US and was thrilled when she got selected to pursue her master's at Virginia Tech.

'She left for the US in September 2006 and was based in Blacksburg in Virginia,' Neeta Bhivankar, Minal's childhood friend, told IANS.

'She was a brilliant student and warm and friendly. She always wanted to excel academically and wanted to make it big in the field of architecture. I just can't believe Minal is no longer there.

'We had been fearing the worst ever since the news of the massacre. We had been in touch on the Internet and it was only last week that I had chatted with her. Who would know that I'd lose her so soon and so cruelly?' asked a tearful Bhivankar, who had known Minal for 12 years.

Added Vibhuti Sarmalkar, another former schoolmate: 'We used to keep in touch by email. When I first saw the news of the shootout, I prayed to god and hoped that Minal was safe. Now that the horror has become real, I just cannot believe it.

'Minal wanted to follow in her father's footsteps as an architect. She was so studious and her room was full of books. She was polite and always a true friend to us,' she added.

Residents of Park View building added that the Panchals were very sociable. When Minal's father was alive, the family attended all housing society functions.

'In fact Minal's father served as the secretary of the housing society for several years. The Panchals had been living in Borivili for nearly two decades,' said K.K. Parekh, a next-door neighbour.

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