PANAJI, India – Indian police said Thursday that an American tourist died earlier this week after a mob of villagers mistook him for a thief and chased him until he fell into a swampy rice paddy, where he choked on muddy water.
The tourist, identified by his passport as 30-year-old Caitanya Holt, was eventually pulled out of the mud by police using ropes on Tuesday, but he was declared dead on arrival at a local hospital in the eastern state of Goa, police officer Umesh Gaonkar said.
The cause of death has not yet been determined. Police were waiting for U.S. Consulate officials to arrive from Mumbai to carry out an autopsy, Gaonkar said.
On Wednesday, the Press Trust of India reported that Holt had drowned in a rice paddy, citing the state's highest elected official, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar.
American officials have asked Indian authorities for details about his death and are in contact with Holt's family in the U.S., said Heidi Hattenbach, a consular information officer.
Gaonkar said villagers grew suspicious of Holt, who had arrived in India in July, when he stopped some strangers and went into some homes in a village on the outskirts of the state capital, Panaji. The villagers could not understand his English and apparently mistook him for a thief, he said. A laptop was also recovered from Holt, he said.