SHANGHAI: A teenage boy suspected of stealing iron scraps from an industrial park here drowned after jumping into a river to escape security guards chasing him on Saturday.
Luo Xueyong, 15, ran for about 1 km, with security guards of the Songjiang export and import products processing zone in pursuit, before taking a fatal plunge into a river running alongside the park.
Luo, a native of Chongqing, along with three other teenage boys, had allegedly sneaked into the industrial park on Saturday afternoon to collect iron scraps, which they wanted to trade for money.
Relatives of the victim said that the security guards' relentless chase "forced the teenager to take the drastic step" in order to protect himself.
The Songjiang police have launched a probe into the incident.
One of the teenagers who was with Luo while they were collecting iron scraps said: "We dropped off everything we had collected as soon as we were spotted and made a run for it."
"We knew it is prohibited to enter the industrial park, but we were told there was iron inside and it could be traded for money," he told the local Qingnian Daily.
"The park's patrolling guards, who spotted us, climbed over an iron fence to nab us," the teenager said.
The pursuit scared the four boys - all aged 15 and 16. They dropped the iron scraps and dashed to the riverside on the west of the park.
"Luo jumped into the river to escape punishment," the boy said.
One of the boys also said they pleaded a passerby to rescue Luo but he declined, saying he did not know how to swim.
Luo's younger brother, also part of the group, jumped into the water but could not find him, the boy said.
It was only six hours later that a police search party pulled out Luo's dead body from the river.
Officials at the industrial park declined to comment on the incident.
Luo's family members blamed the security guards for continuing to pursue the young and immature boys despite the fact that they had dropped the iron scraps.
"They are just kids," a relative of the victim told the local paper. He added that the boy's family was planning to file a lawsuit.
The latest incident only underscores the recent death of a youngster, who took an extreme and fatal step to escape two chasing urban management officers.
In November, Cao Qiang, 18, who was being pursued by two officers for distributing handouts, jumped into a Beijing river to escape and drowned.
Relatives of the victim claimed neither of the two officers took any action to rescue the boy.
(China Daily 01/06/2009 page4)