A 41-year-old state transport (ST) driver hijacked a fellow driver's bus and rampaged through the crowded city streets for 45-minutes, mowing down pedestrians, ramming cars, two-wheelers and food stalls yesterday. Eight people were dead and 30 injured by the time he was stopped.
Murderous rage: ST bus driver Santosh Maruti Mane
The high-voltage drama unfolded during the morning rush hour when the streets were teeming with schoolchildren and officer-goers. According to eyewitnesses, ST driver Santosh Maruti Mane ran over anything and everything that came in his way.
The Swargate police said Mane, a resident of Kavathali village in Solapur district, took to the wheel of an empty Satara-Swargate-Satara bus, stationed at Swargate bus depot at 8.15 am. The driver who was assigned the bus, Suresh Hendre, had just parked the vehicle and gone inside the office when Mane jumped into the driver's seat and drove off.
State transport buses have common ignition keys, and a driver can start any transport authority bus with his key. "He drove off at a breakneck speed killing one on the depot premises and mowing down another just outside the depot," a police official said.
The police said Mane rampaged through Shankarshet Road, Napiar Road, Golibar Maidan Road, Solapur Bazar Road, East Street, Timber Market Road, Seven Loves Chowk, Maharshi Road, Laxmi Narayan Chowk, Mitramandal Chowk, covering a distance of 16km, before some locals and police managed to intercept the bus and overpower the driver near Neelayam Bridge at Sinhgad Road.
Earlier, after being alerted by the police control room about the rampaging bus, the marshals of the Lashakar police station started chasing the vehicle. They even tried to intercept it by putting barricades, but Mane tore through the iron barricades too. In a bid to stop the death demon, beat marshal Deepak Kakade then open eight rounds of fires at the bus to deflate its tyres, but in vain.
Even the hail of bullets failed to deter a murderous Mane continued his killing spree and drove his wheels of death for around 16km. According to the police, the vehicle took two rounds of the Cantonment area and went to old bus stand in Bhavani Peth and through Ramoshi gate came on Timber Market road and headed towards Seven Loves chowk again.
After hitting a couple of vehicles near Neelayam Bridge, the bus slowed down and by that time a 20-year-old student, Shariff Kutty, who was also chasing him and constable Bapu Lonkar, who was on the roof, managed to enter the cabin and overpowered him.
'Bus driver not mentally unstable'
Police Commissioner Meeran Chaddha Borwankar ruled out that the killer bus driver was a 'psycho' or he was 'overworked'. As per the preliminary investigations, the driver, Santosh Mane, was totally fit and healthy and was not suffering from any mental disorder.
"As per our information, the driver was in his senses and was not suffering from any mental disorder. It will be wrong to call him a 'psycho or mental."