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Full inside story of Ernst & Young, EY accountant in Sydney death plunge

A ‘beautiful and brilliant’ young accountant had only moved to Australia 11 months ago before plunging to her death from the Ernst & Young skyscraper in Sydney’s CBD. 

Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, an Indian national, fell from a terrace on the roof of the building’s 10th floor around 12.20am on Saturday, August 27, after returning to the office following a work function.

Her death has left corporate Australia reeling and sparked debate about relentless work hours within major consulting firms, with three good Samaritans telling Daily Mail Australia she was ‘crying her eyes out’ in a nearby car park, around 30 minutes before the fall.

Her uncle Nachur Balasubramanian, who is based in Canada, told Daily Mail Australia the family have been struggling to come to terms with her shocking death.

Mr Balasubramanian said his niece gained an accounting degree in India before marrying, settling down, then relocating to Australia.

She took a position at EY as a senior auditor in real estate assurance last November.

Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, (pictured) has been remembered as'beautiful and brilliant'

Aishwarya Venkatachalam, 27, (pictured) has been remembered as ‘beautiful and brilliant’

‘She was very educated, beautiful and brilliant,’ Mr Balasubramanian said.

‘She was a very good lady, she was brought up very well.  

‘I do not know how this could happen.’ 

Her uncle said she came from a very close and supportive family and was her parents’ only daughter.

‘Her mother and father are very caring and kind. They were supporting her, and she was supporting of them,’ he said.

‘Her body has not been released. The police are still conducting an investigation.

‘We have no idea what happened. We are trying to seek answers.’ 

A NSW Police spokesman said a report continues to be prepared for the coroner, and was unable to comment on when her body will be repatriated to India.  

Ms Venkatachalam completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance in 2015 at Symbiosis College of Arts & Commerce, in Pune, western India. 

The heartbreaking final moments of the despairing young woman who plunged to her death from the golden EY skyscraper in Sydney's CBD have been revealed by some of the last people to see her alive

The heartbreaking final moments of the despairing young woman who plunged to her death from the golden EY skyscraper in Sydney’s CBD have been revealed by some of the last people to see her alive

According to her LinkedIn profile, she then took on the role of audit senior at American accounting firm Grant Thorton in their Bengaluru office in 2019.

She spent almost three years with the company before moving to EY. 

Ms Venkatachalam described herself as a ‘great’ peer in the workplace and boasted of her prowess in crunching numbers.

‘Audit senior with an expertise in areas of auditing related to Real Estate, Employee Benefit Plans, NFP, CIP and Retail,’ she wrote on the page.

‘Been in the field of Audit for 4+ years and there hasn’t been a day where I really had a tough time dealing with numbers, because that’s not what we do.

‘Apart from being the Auditor this profile speaks about, also a great colleague to be around with during the peak busy seasons and also during normal days.’ 

The tribute comes after three women told Daily Mail Australia they found Ms Venkatachalam ‘crying her eyes out’ in a nearby car park just before midnight last Friday.

The Good Samaritans said Ms Venkatachalam was sobbing uncontrollably, apparently having a panic attack.

Around 12.20am Ms Venkatachalam fell from the terrace deck on the roof of the building's 10th floor

Around 12.20am Ms Venkatachalam fell from the terrace deck on the roof of the building’s 10th floor

She said she had been kicked out of a work function and needed her house key from her office to go home – but told the women that building security would not let her in to get it.

She was then said to have been helped her back to the office tower block by other passers-by. 

She plunged to her death just minutes later.

‘I’m so shattered for her,’ one of the women who spoke to her in the nearby car park told Daily Mail Australia. ‘I wish I could have done more.’

There is no suggestion Ernst & Young or the dead woman’s co-workers were in any way responsible for her death and there are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances.

The chilling encounter is another crucial piece in the confusing jigsaw of the dead woman’s final movements after several conflicting reports.

It was initially claimed the woman went for ‘EY Social Club’ drinks at the nearby Ivy nightclub between 5.30pm and 7.30pm before returning to the office.

Police have CCTV footage of Ms Venkatachalam returning to the building between 7pm and 7.30pm, and was seen moving between floors in the building (pictured, CCTV cameras in front of her office)

Police have CCTV footage of Ms Venkatachalam returning to the building between 7pm and 7.30pm, and was seen moving between floors in the building (pictured, CCTV cameras in front of her office)

It was later claimed that she did not actually leave the office until 7.30pm and returned to the office around midnight.

However, The Australian reported police have CCTV footage of the woman returning to the building between 7pm and 7.30pm, and that she was seen moving between floors in the building before taking a phone call from her husband at 8pm.

He was in Singapore, about to fly to Sydney, and is believed to have been in the air when his wife died. 

He is understood to have been told the tragic news after his flight touched down.

Ms Venkatachalam was alleged to have been escorted out of the EY work gathering at the Ivy by security at some point but specific details of her movements for several hours remain a mystery until she was seen just before midnight.

‘I found her in a car park, close to my car, crying her eyes out so my girlfriends and I offered to help her out,’ said one of the women who spoke to the EY worker.

‘She was trying to communicate with a cleaner who worked there – I think she may have thought they were from the same country. 

‘He was trying to help but he had no English. He ended up walking away and we asked if she was okay.’

There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances but police are still piecing together her final movements

There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances but police are still piecing together her final movements

The Good Samaritan, whose account of the incident was corroborated by one of the two women with her, said Ms Venkatachalam initially flinched from the group of women, saying ‘all white people are racist’ and cowering in a corner.

But the group told her: ‘We are three women here to support you and be here for you and get you home safely. Tell us what’s going on…

‘She just kept repeating herself…. and how she got kicked out of her work function. 

‘She said that over 10 times whilst crying her eyes out. She was having a panic attack and had been drinking but wasn’t completely drunk. 

‘Once we calmed her down, she said she needed to get into her work office at EY as she forgot her house key and they wouldn’t let her up [but] she had her swipe tag.’

The Good Samaritan added: ‘She didn’t have anybody. I saw that she was wearing a wedding ring so I asked about her partner and she said he’s in Singapore and getting a flight back.

‘I asked if anyone else had a spare key to her home or if we can drop her somewhere safe or call her a cab – I even offered to pay for a cab if she didn’t have money.’

She said at that point another woman and two men appeared who offered to drop her off at the EY building to get her key.

‘I think they made a welfare call out to the police but it was too late,’ said the woman.

The woman told bystanders she needed to get her house key but claimed building security would not her up to her office

The woman told bystanders she needed to get her house key but claimed building security would not her up to her office

The woman was found sobbing in the the corner of the Angel Place Wilson car park on Pitt Steet just before midnight

The woman was found sobbing in the the corner of the Angel Place Wilson car park on Pitt Steet just before midnight

The women heard days later about the woman’s death, which had happened just minutes after leaving her around midnight.

‘I was seriously so heartbroken when I found out,’ said the woman who asked to remain anonymous.  

‘She had been drinking and was having multiple panic attacks as she was trying to communicate. It’s just heartbreaking.’ 

The Good Samaritan said she and the friends who were with her that night had tried to reach out to EY but ‘they will not talk about the matter at all’.

EY did not respond to requests for comment. 

Wilson Parking security are now looking for CCTV footage of the entry and entrance of the Angel Place car park, behind the Ivy, to confirm the woman’s final movements.

Investigations into the death are continuing and police and EY declined to comment on the new details. 

Merivale, owners of the Ivy, have not yet responded to an enquiry from Daily Mail Australia.

Family of Ernst & Young death plunge victim, 27, break their silence with heartfelt 12-line message everyone must read: ‘Life turned upside down’

  • Woman, 27, died when she plunged from 11th floor deck of her office building
  • Person claiming to be woman’s relative has penned a poem expressing grief
  • ‘Life turned upside down. Shocked beyond words,’ the 12-line poem begins
  • Death of senior associate at accountancy firm EY comes at auditing season peak 
  • Former workers have lifted the lid on the ‘toxic workplace’ culture at the Big4 
  • There is no suggestion EY was in any way responsible for the tragic incident 
  •  For confidential 24-hour support in Australia call Lifeline on 13 11 14

By OLIVIA DAY, KEVIN AIRS and TITA SMITH for DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA 

A grief-stricken relative of the woman who died after plunging from a balcony at her Sydney office has paid tribute to their loved one with a heartfelt poem.  

The Ernst & Young employee, 27, fell from an open-air terrace on the 10th floor of the building onto a glass awning at its entrance at about 12:30am on Saturday. 

A person who claims to be a relative of the senior associate has penned an emotional 12-line poem titled ‘Gone Too Soon’ dedicated to their ‘sister’.

The heartbreaking words obtained by Daily Mail Australia describes the woman as having ‘energy and passion of a different kind’ and goes on to say the loss will leave an ‘irreplaceable void in our lives’.

‘Life turned upside down. Shocked beyond words. Not an age to go, lot of life was ahead of you, controlling our tears, as you will be missed for years,’ it begins. 

The 27-year-old Ernst & Young employee died after falling from the terrace of the roof of the company's Sydney headquarters  (pictured) around midnight on Saturday

The 27-year-old Ernst & Young employee died after falling from the terrace of the roof of the company’s Sydney headquarters  (pictured) around midnight on Saturday 

A person who claims to be a close relative of the senior associate has penned an emotional tribute (pictured) titled'Gone Too Soon'

A person who claims to be a close relative of the senior associate has penned an emotional tribute (pictured) titled ‘Gone Too Soon’

‘Energy and passion was of a different kind, flashback of your birth running in our minds, aim to relive the bond and of love and respect for every year. 

‘Left an irreplaceable void in our lives, will remember and cherish the wonderful memories, may your soul rest in peace.’

Daily Mail Australia understands the woman’s family members are still trying to piece together the series of events that led to her tragic death.

The woman had been at work until about 7.30pm on Friday when she left her office in Sydney’s CBD before returning again at around midnight.

The senior associate, now known to be 27 and not 33 as previously reported, fell from the terrace on the roof of the 10th floor of the EY tower in the CBD onto the glass awning

The senior associate, now known to be 27 and not 33 as previously reported, fell from the terrace on the roof of the 10th floor of the EY tower in the CBD onto the glass awning

It was also originally thought that she attended work drinks at Sydney's Ivy nightclub (pictured) between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, but Daily Mail Australia now understands she was at the office until this time

It was also originally thought that she attended work drinks at Sydney’s Ivy nightclub (pictured) between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, but Daily Mail Australia now understands she was at the office until this time

It was originally thought that she attended work drinks between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, but Daily Mail Australia now understands she was actually in the office during this time. 

This leaves a near-five hour gap in the woman’s movements.

About 20 minutes after arriving back at her office, the woman apparently used her security swipe card to access the restricted open-air terrace area – and then tragically fell to her death.

Daily Mail Australia understands EY are drawing up plans to redesign the rooftop guardrail on the terrace to build a new barrier to prevent any repeat of the tragedy.

The woman’s husband was on a flight from Singapore to Sydney at the time she died and had the terrible news broken to him after he stepped off the plane.

It is understood the woman was a foreign national who had been spent approximately six months working for EY. 

Daily Mail Australia understands EY have plans to redesign the rooftop guardrail on the terrace to create a new barrier to prevent any repeat of the tragedy (pictured, the 11th floor)

Daily Mail Australia understands EY have plans to redesign the rooftop guardrail on the terrace to create a new barrier to prevent any repeat of the tragedy (pictured, the 11th floor)

Read the email by EY sent to shocked staff 

It is with great sadness that I’m sharing the news that one of our team members died at the EY building in Sydney over the weekend.

While the police investigation is ongoing, we have been informed that there were no suspicious circumstances.

We have been in touch with the family of the person involved to offer our condolences and ongoing support.

This loss of a colleague is deeply saddening, I want to assure all of you that we will continue to provide support in as many ways that we can. This includes our EAP service which is available to all EY employees and their families.

As a result of this tragedy, we are conducting a comprehensive and wide-ranging internal review that will include health and safety, security and social events. Jono Nicholas, our Chief Mental Health Advisor will play an important role in helping guide and advise us as we move forward.

The police investigation is continuing and there is no suggestion EY – the trading name of Ernst & Young – or the senior associate’s superiors were in any way responsible for the death of the worker.

Staff were emailed by a member of management on Monday to tell them that ‘it is with great sadness I am sharing the news that one of our team members died at the EY building in Sydney over the weekend’.

‘While the police investigation is ongoing we have been informed that there were no suspicious circumstances,’ the email added.

‘We have been in touch with the family of the person to offer our condolences and ongoing support.’

The email said the company would launch a ‘comprehensive and wide-ranging internal review ‘ of its health and safety, security and social policies in the wake of the tragedy.

A group of EY workers told Daily Mail Australia that employees had been offered counselling. 

The incident has exposed the intense working conditions at many of the massive multinationals, especially during the auditing season of July to September. 

Employees at the world’s top four international consulting companies have referred to their high-stakes workplaces as the ‘The Meat Grinder’. 

Staffers, both past and present, have lifted the lid on the stressful environment often experienced at the Big4 firms – with some claiming the majority of new employees only last two years.

Some say workers are frequently pushed to their limits to complete the scrupulously detailed reports in a very short turnaround time, requiring hours of allegedly unpaid and unrecorded overtime. 

Social media has been inundated with so-called survivors claiming they regularly worked around the clock to the point of exhaustion and beyond to hit deadlines.

But while billable hours are recorded at average levels of just 41-42 hours a week, the reality is allegedly often double that – or even more.  

Police have been scouring CCTV footage from nearby cameras (pictured) to piece together the woman's final moments

Police have been scouring CCTV footage from nearby cameras (pictured) to piece together the woman’s final moments 

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Social media has been inundated with so-called survivors claiming they regularly worked around the clock to the point of exhaustion and beyond to hit deadlines

Social media has been inundated with so-called survivors claiming they regularly worked around the clock to the point of exhaustion and beyond to hit deadlines

One wrote: ‘The cruel working culture needs to be called out and make the news.

‘From personal experience, it’s career suicide to work less than 10 hours per day at EY. No joke. Not exaggerating at all.

‘Average work hours were 8am – 7pm, sometimes until 9:30pm. In other teams, I heard people were there until 2am in the morning.

‘Also no one stays for the pay. The pay is s*** at all of the big 4 consulting firms.’

One admitted they were still hanging on but ready to quit any day now: ‘I’m so mentally exhausted and unwell.

‘[But] they put me on so many engagements on top of full-time project. 

‘Partners won’t care about you as they only want to make more revenue and take more money. Disgusting. I’m so ready to leave.’

EY has promised a'comprehensive and wide-ranging internal review that will include health and safety, security and social events' led by their chief mental health advisor in the wake of the tragedy (pictured, an EY careers event in Australia)

EY has promised a ‘comprehensive and wide-ranging internal review that will include health and safety, security and social events’ led by their chief mental health advisor in the wake of the tragedy (pictured, an EY careers event in Australia)

Another added: ‘As an auditor myself working at a Big 4 and having worked for two other Big 4, I definitely know how stressful it is during year end audits. 

‘I hope that this tragedy sheds some light on this issue and that firms provide more support to employees especially during this time of the year.’

EY has promised a ‘comprehensive and wide-ranging internal review that will include health and safety, security and social events’ led by their chief mental health advisor in the wake of the tragedy.

Daily Mail Australia has contacted PwC, KPMG and Deloitte for a response to the claims. 

For confidential 24-hour support in Australia call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Who are Ernst & Young?

Ernst & Young is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious accounting and consultancy firms with about 600 offices worldwide.

Now known as EY, the firm provides audits for some of the globe’s largest companies and consults with governments on corporate risk, technology and human resource services. 

Headquartered in the UK, the firm is worth well over US$40billion. 

International clients include Hewlett Packard computers, US telecoms giant AT&T, Coca Cola, General Motors, Hilton hotels and Lockheed Martin.

Australian clients of EY include retail giant Wesfarmers, Telstra as well as energy and minerals giants Newcrest Mining and Woodside Petroleum, along with various government departments.

The period after the financial year ends on June 30 and is considered one of the peak times where major companies will require audits.

Those working within the highly competitive corporate environment during this time are know to put in long hours.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11179843/Ernst-Young-EY-accountant-Sydney-CBD-aishwarya-venkatachalam-India.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Full inside story of Ernst & Young, EY accountant in Sydney death plunge

Emma Colton

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