BMC committee report says firemen never entered Kalbadevi building

While a statement recorded by cops, of deceased fire chief Sunil Nesarikar, says he and his team entered Gokul Niwas, a report of a committee set up by the civic chief says they were standing on the porch when the building collapsed

The deaths of the four firemen in the Kalbadevi blaze have now acquired an air of mystery to them, after a report of a committee set up by the municipal commissioner, to inquire into the incident, has differed over where the four deceased firefighters were when the building collapsed.

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According to the BMC committee inquiring into the fire, Sunil Nesarikar and his team never entered Kalbadevi’s Gokul Niwas
According to the BMC committee inquiring into the fire, Sunil Nesarikar and his team never entered Kalbadevi’s Gokul Niwas

The city’s fire brigade witnessed its worst ever casualty when four senior fire officials lost their lives in the Gokul Niwas blaze in Kalbadevi on May 9. These included Chief Fire Officer Sunil Nesarikar, Deputy Chief Fire Officer Sudhir Amin, Assistant Divisional Fire Officer Sanjay Rane and Station Officer Mahendra Desai.

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While Rane and Desai died the same night, Amin and Nesarikar passed away later. mid-day had reported on May 26 that Sunil Nesarikar had told the investigating L T Marg police that he and his team had entered the burning building to take stock of the situation and rescue any victim possibly trapped inside.

While he was being treated for his burn injuries at Airoli’s National Burns Centre, Nesarikar had told the police, “...While inspecting the situation inside the building and looking for an evacuation route for anyone possibly trapped inside, suddenly a part of the building collapsed on us.”

Since the fire chief himself couldn’t sign on the statement owing to injuries on his hands, Jayshree Nesarikar, his wife, had signed it after reading the document. “No such statement (of Nesarikar) was recorded in front of me.

I was just shown the statement (the cops recorded) later, and after consulting other fire officials, I signed it,” she said. L T Marg officials confirmed that the statement they had was indeed Nesarikar’s.

Not inside?
However, a committee appointed by civic chief Ajoy Mehta has come to the conclusion that Nesarikar and his team never entered the building, but were on its verandah (porch) when it came crashing down on them. It has also listed the fire as an accident.

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Sources in the fire brigade said the committee is going to submit its report to Mehta on Monday (today). They, too, concurred with the report’s findings. “It is 100 per cent true that the officials never went inside the building. They were standing in the verandah when the mishap happened.

Another official got saved just by a few inches,” said a senior fire brigade official. When asked why Nesarikar had said they were inside the structure, the official said, “He was 50 per cent burnt and hospitalised. How do you expect him to describe these details in such a condition?”

This, then, raises questions on the committee’s report. Among other things, the committee is supposed to investigate the lacuna in the activation and mobilisation of human and material resources, strengthening of methodology for dissemination of information to stakeholders and long-term measures to be taken for fire safety of old buildings in crowded areas.

mid-day tried to contact Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Mukherjee, the chairman of the committee, but he remained unavailable for comment.

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