rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

Last updated on: May 29, 2012 17:32 IST

Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

     Next

Next

A freak accident along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway claimed 27 lives in the early hours of Monday. Rediff.com's Abhishek Mande pieces together how the tragedy unfolded and its aftermath.

Panacea Hospital stands at the corner of a busy junction in Navi Mumbai's Panvel area. It has an unremarkable building and an equally unexceptional entrance where a few young men wait impatiently.

Inside, the mood is grim. Three men are sitting pensively. One is looking at a piece of paper, the other at his phone and the third continues to stare blankly at a wall. The man at the reception is on the phone and a few nurses walk up and down the small corridor. In some ways it is your typical hospital scene. And yet in equally many ways, it isn't.

Watch: Expressway accident survivor recounts the horror

Click NEXT to read further...


Image: The mangled remains of the tourist minibus, which was hit by a speeding truck on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com

     Next

Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

The hospital has one intensive care unit with half a dozen beds. Monday was one of the rare days when all of them are occupied.

The youngest in the ward is a little over one, the oldest about 12 years old. Two year-old Ayush Mane shares his bed with his mother, Sheetal.

Though she doesn't show any prominent injury marks besides a largish bandage that is tied almost half-heartedly around her right hand, there are signs that she has been on saline for a while.

She lies expressionless on her bed even as her baby begins to wail. What has left her so shaken?

Watch: Mumbai-Pune Expressway accident: How it REALLY happened


Image: Ayush Mane (L) with his mother Sheetal
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

A little after midnight on Monday, Sheetal along with her son Ayush and husband Rajendra was heading back to their hometown Pune after a cousin's wedding in Mumbai's Ghatkopar area. Along with about 50 others, they were seated in one of the two mini buses, which was hired from Pune. Their cousin Eknath Bahule, the groom was travelling in a car, a Mahindra Xylo, with his newly wed wife Manisha Gaikwad.

About a kilometre and a half before they approached the Khalapur tollbooth along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the tyre of one of their buses burst. The bus swerved off the road. The driver managed to stay in control of the vehicle and pulled it over to the side of the road safely.

The other two vehicles also pulled over. As they waited for a mechanic to help them replace the tyre, a few men stepped out of the bus to stretch their aching feet, smoke a bidi or a cigarette.

Some of them stood in-between the two buses, some others a little away. And suddenly a chill ran down their spine as they saw a truck speeding towards them.  

In less than a few hours, the marriage party lost 27 of its members and 29 others were left injured.

The worst hit were the women who were fast asleep in the last few rows of the bus. Of the deceased, 15 were women, seven children and five men.


Image: The truck that ran into the bus causing the accident
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

At Ashtavinayak Hospital in Panvel, the last of the two survivors are being wheeled out. A semblance of sanity prevails over the hospital now though the scenes were vastly different barely a few hours ago when the injured were coming in droves. Of the 14 who were brought in, two were declared dead on arrival, three others died while still under treatment.

Sandhya Haribhakta, 30, and Janabai Manjre, 40, are two of nine who managed to survive.

Haribhakta is lying on a stretcher resting her weight on her left hip and crying out in pain. Her left hip has been fractured. "Saheb kahi lakshat yet nahi hai aata," (Sir, I can't recollect anything) she said when asked about the mishap.

The pain caused by the multiple fractures are making it difficult for her to talk, or even think, the doctor said.

Manjare, who is now on a wheelchair, shows no signs of physical injury. Her hair is dishevelled and her forehead has beads of sweat. Dr Mahesh Patil, a young medical practitioner, who runs an ambulance service in Pune said, "There's not much to worry. It's a post-trauma shock."

Manjare's gaze doesn't move at all. She blinks occasionally but for most part she sits there slouched in an oversized wheelchair, staring at her feet.

In spite of the many attempts by the people around her, Manjare refuses to talk or react.


Image: Janabai Manjre (sitting) and Sandhya Haribhakta (on the stretcher)
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Most adults admitted to various hospitals in Navi Mumbai have been discharged or shifted to hospitals in Pune where they belong. The only ones recovering at the Panacea Hospital are children.

Seven-year-old Rupesh Mhaske lies next to his other injured cousins in a hospital.  One of them has suffered a terrible fracture and has a collar around his neck.

The only memory Mhaske has of the night is 'something hitting him from behind'. When I regained consciousness I found myself in a seat ahead of me. All he remembers is people around him shouting for help and he in a semi-conscious state trying to figure what went wrong.

Now, when someone asks him what happened, he tells what he's heard from everyone around. "Truck ni thokla (A truck rammed into us)."

"I didn't cry," he tells me in Marathi putting on a brave face. "But my stomach hurts. It's still hurting."

He hasn't seen his parents since the night of the mishap, but has been told they're recuperating in another hospital.

No one knows the name of the youngest patient in the ward. They know her last name is Manjre because of her father who is in Pune attending to the last rites of his wife. Everyone calls her Chakuli; it's the name that is listed among those injured.

Chakuli is one year old and it's difficult to get her to stop crying. Those pacifying her is their neighbour Ravi Gaikwad a driver who rushed to Khalapur from Pune after learning about the accident.


Image: Chakuli Manjare with her neighbour Ravi Gaikwad
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Hours after the dreadful accident, there are few signs on the spot that reveal the extent of the tragedy that took place there -- tyre marks of the bus that swerved off the road and a few strewn seats. 

The three vehicles -- two mini buses and the truck -- have been moved a little beyond the toll booth where the road widens and makes way for a makeshift police chowky.

A group of policemen have gathered around one bus trying to investigate the accident.

One of them wonders how a truck driving three lanes away crashed into a bus standing in the service lane on the extreme left. The driver has told them that he was trying to overtake a luxury bus at the time when he lost control of the wheel.

According to one report Ramdas Fadtare, who was driving beyond permissible speed limits, simply fell asleep behind the wheel. Fadtare's left hand is bandaged and he is at the Khalapur police station where the police are trying to take his statement down. Medical tests confirm that he was not driving under the influence of alcohol.  


Image: Ramdas Fadtare, the truck driver
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Traumatised victims recall nightmare on Expressway

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Eknath Bahule, the groom, has been on his toes since his wedding. Along with his nephew Rupesh Nikale he has been shuttling between various hospitals, the spot where the mangled remains of the two buses now stand and the police chowky.

According to a report, there have been 1,823 accidents along the Expressway from the time it opened in 2001. These accidents have led to 1,034 people being injured and have killed 518 travellers including well-known stage and film actress Bhakti Barve whose car ran into an electric pole near Panvel when she was returning to Mumbai after a performance in Wai in Maharashtra's Satara district in 2001.

To this day, the proposed trauma centres meant to deal with accidents similar to this one haven't been set up and it was barely a couple of days ago that the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation that maintains the route had invited tenders to set one up.


Image: Eknath Bahule (right), the groom, at the police chowky
Photographs: Abhishek Mande/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

TOP photo features of the week

Prev     More

Click on MORE to see another set of PHOTO features...



Tags: PHOTO , MORE , TOP

Prev     More