Youngsters' excitement at being on TV turned to tragedy on Friday when a middle school student drowned and two others went missing on a Hainan beach during filming of a show. Police in Wenchang told the China Youth Daily yesterday that around 100 students from Confucius Middle School had been sent out into the sea by principal Liu Debin, who was paid 5,000 yuan (HK$5,700) by the programme's producers. The students were extras for the filming of The Emancipation of Hainan, which was being made to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the island. Simulating the landing of the People's Liberation Army in 1950, the students, clad in military uniforms, were told to stand in the rough sea up to their waists before rushing to the shore on Friday, the second of two days of shooting, the report said. Suddenly, more than 10 schoolboys were engulfed by huge waves, leaving one dead and two others missing, the report said. A teacher with the school confirmed the accident. He added that some 100 students were involved in the filming. 'I have no idea whether the missing students have been recovered,' the teacher said. 'At present, there are three or four students still undergoing medical treatment in a nearby hospital. 'As far as I've learned, hardly any one of us, including both teaching staff and students, has any idea about what the principal did with the money from the production team before the media reports came out.' Some seven or eight students were placed under observation in hospital and have been discharged. The teacher said that the students were excited when they were told that they had a chance to participate in the China Central Television programme, and that no one asked about payment or transport subsidies. 'The dawn-till-dusk work was a bit hard for the boys, although the Beijing-based shooting company had fetched them with buses and served them lunchboxes,' the teacher said. There were reports police had detained Liu. 'Our principal has been suffering from heart disease for a long time,' the teacher said. 'He is now resting at his home next to the school.' He said the local education department had sent specialists to counsel students with emotional problems in the wake of the accident. 'I feel so depressed over what happened with the tragedy,' he said, adding that the school had to move on because the students were due to sit examinations before the end of this month. Hainan has been in the limelight since Wei Luicheng, the provincial Communist Party secretary, announced a blueprint for the island to be the mainland's first gaming centre and tourist destination.