In his statement, manager tells cops he didn’t mean to flee the scene, and tried to help those trapped inside the burning restaurant
Three days after the blaze at City Kinara restaurant killed eight people, the police have arrested the manager, Sharad Tripathi. Immediately after the incident, Tripathi was nowhere to be found, raising suspicions that he had fled the scene, but the cops later tracked him down at a Bandra hospital.
Sharad Tripathi, who has been running City Kinara for the last seven years, was arrested yesterday. Pic/Sameer Markande
In his statement to the police, Tripathi said he was not trying to flee, but was afraid for his health after his head was injured in the incident. mid-day had reported that Tripathi had left the scene within minutes of the fire erupting on Friday.
The VB Nagar police found him at Holy Family Hospital the next day, and took him into custody when he was discharged at 2 pm yesterday. In his statement, he added that when the fire started, he had tried to go upstairs and help the customers trapped on the first floor, but a flaming object fell on his head.
“Tripathi ran outside and switched off the main electric switch. He wanted to help the customers but as soon as he got hurt, he began to feel dizzy. He had suffered head injuries and recently had had a paralytic attack, so he rushed to hospital,” said Senior police inspector Praveen More from VB Nagar police station.
The Holy Family Hospital refused to divulge details about Tripathi’s condition as it is a medico-legal case, but medical director Dr Armeda Fernandez said he was stable at the time of discharge. “The patient was referred to us and after treating him for three days, we discharged him once the doctors ensured that he was stable,” she said.
Tripathi’s statement was recorded over the course of five hours by three investigating officers and a writer, under More’s supervision, after which he was taken for a medical evaluation and then arrested.
Protest against BMC officials
Nearly 150 people gathered outside VB police station yesterday in a silent protest demanding action against the management of City Kinara restaurant and BMC officials for the fire. The protest was led by NGOs such as Watchdog Foundation, Save Our Land and Police Reforms Watch.
Senior Inspector More said the police station had received several letters of complaints from local residents on Monday, alleging that the BMC had failed to take action against the restaurant management for flouting safety regulations.
“The BMC had taken action and fined the restaurant several times in the past two years, but if the accused reveals the involvement of any officials, then action will be taken against them as well,” he told this paper.
Tripathi’s family friend and advocate, Meena Pandey visited him in custody yesterday. Speaking to mid-day, she said, “He never tried to run. On the contrary, he switched off the main switch before he came out. He said that he personally knew all the children and treated them like his own.
The girl, Bernadette D’Souza, would greet him each time and ask him to keep a table free on the mezzanine floor for her and her friends. The entire Tripathi family is saddened by the incident, but he can’t even approach the victims’ families to offer condolences because they are accusing him.”
“The hotel is destroyed and so is the only source of livelihood of the family. At 51, Tripathi will have to start from scratch. It’s an equally difficult time for his family,” added Pandey.