Though cops claim he has no history of being mentally unsound, the state transport bus driver who went berserk on a busy Pune street during morning rush hours yesterday, ended up mowing down eight people. He would have slain and brutalised more, had it not been for a brave college student, now being hailed as a hero.
Santosh Mane. Pics/Krunal Gosavi and AFP
At 8.15 am, the 41-year-old driver, Santosh Maruti Mane, got in the bus at Swargate bus depot for no other reason but to go on a killing spree. Through-out the 10 km that he rolled, juggernaut-like, butchering people from Burger King in Camp to Dandekar Bridge at Samadhan Bhel Chowk, 21-year-old Sharif Ibrahim Kutty, a third-year Poona College student, tailed him on his bike. He wanted to stop the madness dead in its tracks. But it was to be another 45 minutes before the rampage could be reined in.
Fearless: Kutty (21) climbed into the bus through a window after 45
minutes of chasing the driver.
When Kutty, a resident of Vishrantwadi who aspires to become a software engineer, saw the bus knocking down a woman on a bike and ploughing on, he decided to chase it. He said the driver took two rounds near Burger King. Even after the police fired three rounds, he did not lower his pace. "I saw the bus, speeding at 70-80 km, knock down a man on a bike and then approach a woman and a young child. The driver crushed her and dragged her for at least a kilometre before mowing down other vehicles. I chased him on my bike from Pul Gate to Nilayam Talkies on Parvati road, where he did the most damage," said Kutty.
On a killing spree: Santosh Maruti Mane (41) mowed down 8 people
and damaged several vehicles in Pune
Kutty never once slackened his chase, not even when the crazed driver tried to mow him down. "In Kasewadi slums, I saw a man and his child crossing the road, then I overtook the bus to block them, as this crazy man was on a killing spree. My attempt to save them was successful but he brushed me instead. I was saved by the breadth of a hair."
Critical: Devendra Patil, a rickshaw driver, at Harjeevan Hospital
Kutty witnessed more casualties, before the bus rammed into two cars, smashing to a stop near Nilayam Talkies. That is when he clambered aboard the bus through an open window and caught hold of Mane. "Despite my catching hold of him, he was struggling to step on the gas and drive on. But I did not leave him."
At this point, Constable Bapu Lonkar, who had climbed the running bus at Volga Chowk, joined him, and the two of them overpowered Mane, and hauled him out of the bus. A raging crowd, waiting to lynch the driver, gave him several blows before handing him over to the Swargate police.
Gallant: Constable Bapu Lonkar
"I dragged him out of the bus. Surprisingly, he did not display any emotion or repentance and kept telling the furious mob to hit him as much as they could. He even pleaded with me to kill him," Kutty said. "I am sad that I couldn't stop him before he went on the rampage. I would have managed to save more lives," he rued.
Traffic Police constable Ganesh Pawar was chasing the bus with API Kaigude on his bike. Both overtook the bus and tried to intercept it. "It was a narrow escape for both of us when the bus driver instead of slowing down whizzed by at a murderous speed.
API Shashikant Kale, Constable Ganesh Pawar. Pic/Vivek Sabnis
The bus finally stopped near the Neelayam theatre overbridge as it hit three cars and two rickshaws," said Pawar. "We entered the driver's cabin with others who were also chasing the bus and dragged out the driver. We saved the driver from being lynched by the crowd. Finally, we threw him in a police patrolling van and took him to the police station." Beat Marshal Deepak Kakde fired eight rounds from his carbine aiming at the bus tyres, but none hit the target. "My attempt was unsuccessful, otherwise the driver could have been halted at Pul Gate and many would have been saved," said Kakade.
Kutty's mother, Salina, a fashion designer, said, "When my neighbours informed me that my son had met with an accident, I was scared. But when I saw him on TV, I could not believe it.
I was overjoyed when I realised he was a savior for many innocent pedestrians and bikers, who would have met the same fate as the eight deceased. I am proud that I am his mother." She admitted that she, as a mother, had been initially upset on hearing that her son had risked his life, chasing the bus on his 50 cc moped. Kutty's father, Ibrahim, was also pleased with his son's feat.