Co-driver of bus that collided with diesel tanker was supposed to take the wheel in a few hours; as the flames gushed in within seconds, he kicked open emergency exit door and ushered 12 passengers to safety
Two Punekars — 40-year-old co-driver Hemant Darekar and passenger Manish Vyavahare — managed to save 12 lives after the luxury bus they were travelling in collided with a diesel tanker, resulting in the death of eight passengers and several others getting injured in the wee hours of Wednesday at Kude village in Palghar taluka of Thane district.
Smash-bang: The bus was travelling from Pune to Ahmedabad when the accident occurred at around 1.40 am at Kude village in Palghar taluka of Thane district; (below) co-driver Hemant Darekar. Pics/Nimesh Dave
At approximately 1.45 am, Darekar was taking a nap in the backseat when he heard a loud sound. Within seconds, smoke began to fill the bus and flames quickly began to engulf it. “I was sleeping at the rear side of the bus, as my duty was to start after 2.30 am when the bus reaches Vapi at the border of Gujarat.
But at about 1.45 am, I woke up, as there was a sound of something exploding. Along with me, other passengers also woke up. The bus was covered with smoke and there was no way to escape, as it was an AC sleeper coach. Within those 30-40 seconds I kept my cool and went towards the emergency exit door. I started kicking the door and other glass windows and managed to break them,” Darekar said.
“The fire was spreading quickly, as there were rexin blankets in the bus, but before the flames could reach the rear of the bus, I and another traveller managed to rescue 12 passengers,” added Darekar.
Eight people, including the bus driver and cleaner, however, died in the mishap that took place on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway. The Pune-based Purple Travels bus was on its way to Ahmedabad.
“Once I got out of the bus, I made my way to the Nalasopara toll plaza and from there I escorted an ambulance belonging to IRB Company to the spot. Some passengers had sustained minor injuries and they were rushed to Manor Rural hospital for medical treatment,” Darekar said.
Rohit Pardeshi, COO (Intercity Vertical) of Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions, said, “The bus had left Pune at 6.30 pm on Tuesday. The diesel tanker had no reflectors due to which the accident took place. Of the total 18 passengers, nine had boarded the bus from Pune while the other nine got in at Mumbai. The deceased bus driver Shaukat Mulani (45) is from Wai near Satara and cleaner Rohit Gaikwad (25) is from Baramati.”
Additional Superintendent of Police Sangramsinh Nishandar said, “Of the injured passengers, three are from Pune. Out of the eight persons who were charred to death, one has been identified to be from Ratnagiri. Since the bodies are burnt beyond recognition, it has become difficult to establish the identity of the deceased.”
The injured passengers from Pune have been identified as Manish Vyavahare (42), resident of Manas Sarovar, Sinhagad Road; Shrikant Athawale (39), resident of Madhusudan, Shahunagar, Chinchwad and Prakash Trivedi (21), Saptshrungi, DSK Vishwa, Sinhagad Road. All three have received minor injuries. Trivedi was travelling from Pune to Ahmedabad, while Athawale was travelling from Chinchwad to Baroda.