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Monday, May 28, 2012
Mumbai: Twenty-seven members of a wedding party were killed and at least 29 injured early Monday in the worst-ever accident on the 11-year-old Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Among the dead were 15 women, five men and seven children.
The wedding guests were travelling from Ghatkopar to Yerwada in Pune district when, around midnight, one of the minibuses in their cavalcade developed a flat tyre near Khalapur toll plaza, about 42km from Panvel. The
vehicle stopped on the service lane and was joined by another minibus and an SUV. Many guests stepped out and waited between the buses and around them while the snag was fixed.
Around 1am, police said, a speeding truck came and rammed from behind the minibus parked in the rear. Such was the impact that the bus rolled and crashed into the minibus parked in front. All those standing between the two vehicles were crushed. The minibus in front rolled too and mowed down some people standing in front of it and to the left. In all, 17 people died on the spot.
Father loses race to save son
It was a race against death for many. Dipak Sonawane (30) left his wife, elder son, niece and mother-in-law lying dead on the accident spot to rush his injured five-year-old son Omkar, who was severely battered but gasping for breath, to the nearest hospital. But his efforts proved futile as Omkar breathed his last before he could be admitted. P 2 Truck driver booked for culpable homicide
Many of the wedding guests injured in the Mumbai-Pune Expressway mishap were rushed to hospitals in Panvel and Pune, but some died on the way.
Inspector I S Patil of Khalapur police station said the driver of the truck, Somnath Fadtade (25), has been arrested. "Fadtade was recklessly driving at high speed and lost control of the vehicle. He was not drunk," Patil explained. The driver has been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The Monday tragedy left the families of the newlyweds disconsolate. "It is like being hit by a thunderbolt. Just hours ago, there was music, dance and joyous atmosphere. Suddenly, life has taken a U-turn and we are in mour ning," said Sopan Kokate, the grandfather of the bride, Manisha Gaikwad.
Recurring accidents on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway have long been a cause for worry. According to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation MSRDC), which maintains the 92-km route, the Expressway has witnessed more than 1,800 accidents since it was opened 11 years ago. In these mishaps, 518 people lost their lives and another 1,034 people were injured. Many of these fatalities were blamed on the non-availability of emergency medical facilities during the crucial first hour, known as the golden hour, from the time of the mishap. The same delay was cited as a contributory cause of some of the deaths on Monday.
Family members said the wedding party was travelling from Ghatkopar, where the nuptials took place, to Pune in six vehicles, three of which had stopped near Khalapur toll plaza. The first to halt was a minibus (MH12 FZ 8378), which developed a flat tyre, and was shifted to the service road with the help of personnel of Indian Road Builders and the police. It was followed to the side of the road by another minibus (MH12 HB 325) and then by an SUV carrying the newlyweds, Sanjay Bahule and Manisha. The two buses together were carrying 55 passengers, including 14 children.
"The occupants got off the bus and were enjoying snacks when a speeding truck on the third lane lost control, entered the service road and rammed into the minibus parked last," an eye witness told investigating RTO officials. "The occu pants were sitting between the buses and along the crash barriers of the Ex pressway and got sand wiched because of the colli sion." The newlyweds, how ever, survived.
According to the police, when ambulances and res cue teams reached the spot bodies were found strewn around in pools of blood; some victims had got crushed between the buses and the crash barriers. Many motorists stopped their vehicles and helped officials in the rescue operation.
The injured were taken to Panacea and Ashtavinayak hospitals in Panvel and to Sas soon hospital in Pune. Among them were the three mechan ics—Amol More (29), Fayyaz Shaikh (22) and Amir Shaikh (19)—who were repairing the broken-down minibus at the time of the mishap.
( Wi t h i n p u t s f ro m Nitin Yeshwantrao)
MARRIAGE PARTY TAKES TRAGIC TURN: Suresh Gaikwad (with wife Mangal, 45, left) can hardly be described as a lucky survivor. Six members of the 50-year-old government driver's family were killed on the expressway when they were returning from his nephew's wedding in Mumbai. Apart from his wife, Gaikwad lost his daughter Sanjana (19, top left), son Shubham (21, centre) niece Sapna (24, right), sister Nandabai Owhal (50) and nephew Aniket (12). Gaikwad survived as he was sitting inside the SUV parked in the front; his family was crushed between the two vehicles
Posted by Akbar Jiwani at 7:37 PM
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