Just one-and-a-half months ago, Dr Jerome D’cunha boarded a Neeta Travels bus to come back to Mumbai. Little did he know that he would be returning in an ambulance.
On September 7, the 50-year-old, who is a special executive officer (SEO) and a social worker, took a bus from Nashik to Mumbai at 1.30 pm. He had been to Nashik for work, and after travelling for about one-and-a-half hour, the bus stopped at Mumbai Naka, which is 80 km from the city of Mumbai.
Here, the driver and conductor of the bus took another passenger on board and allotted D’cunha’s seat to him. He was then asked to board another bus that was returning from Shirdi, which he duly did.
“I never travel by a bus coming from Shirdi as the drivers of the long-distance buses usually drive unethically. As soon as I entered the new bus, I had a feeling that something wrong was going to happen,” said D’cunha.
Other passengers requested the driver to slow down as he was driving at dangerous speeds (around 120 kmph) but he snapped at them, asking them to mind their own business and not tell him how to do his job. He was also listening to music while driving.
The accident occurred at Kharde village, Kasara, where the driver lost control of the vehicle, veered into the opposite lane, and rammed into an oncoming SUV and a motorcycle.
“I saw the lady sitting beside me die on the spot. I somehow survived because I fell out of the window,” recalled D’cunha. Nine were killed (five bus passengers, four from the SUV) and 25 were injured.
D’cunha was taken to the Seven Hills Hospital in Andheri by his friend Priscilla Dandthi, from the Shahpur Civil Hospital where the injured had been admitted.
Company should pay
D’cunha alleged that the bus took on unauthorised passengers and took them on board illegally without issuing a ticket. He pins responsibility on the company for the accident for not hiring a qualified driver, and not following the rules.
“The company should pay for what has happened. The driver drove like a maniac. And on top of that, he took illegal passengers. The lady sitting beside me had paid Rs 450. She had no ticket. That’s why after the accident, no one could identify her, as there was no record of her travelling on the bus. I request everyone to only travel with a ticket,” he added.
D’cunha has spent more than Rs 2 lakh on treatment but is still bed-ridden. He has decided to seek medical help abroad. According to D’cunha, no one from the Shahpur police station, under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred, came forward to take his statement.
The other side
Kamlesh Kanabar, manager, Neeta Travels, clarified, “The driver is paying for his mistake as he is already in jail. We had conducted 4-5 rounds of tests on him and he had passed all of them. He had even observed from our senior drivers and there were no complaints about his driving. We cannot compensate each and every passenger for accidents. The respective insurance companies will compensate the affected people. Also, we cannot keep a check on who boards the bus during its journey. It’s not possible to do so.” It was only when he called a friend, an assistant commissioner of police (north zone) that the police registered his statement five weeks after the mishap.