Mumbai hotel fire: No one has taken responsibility for accident, say victims' kin

Following Friday’s Kurla restaurant blaze, families of the eight deceased oscillate between sorrow and anger

In Friday’s Kurla restaurant blaze, seven students of the same college in Vidyavihar, Don Bosco, lost their lives within minutes. The eighth unfortunate diner at City Kinara on the fateful Friday afternoon was a corporate executive. Sunday mid-day visited the homes of all eight, coming away with stories of loss and a lifetime of memories.

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Jacqueline D’Souza, mother of Erwin D’Souza (inset: seen with friend Bernadette D’Souza, who also died in the fire), is inconsolable as his body is laid to rest at Saturday’s funeral in Malad. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Jacqueline  D’Souza, mother of Erwin D’Souza (inset: seen with friend Bernadette D’Souza, who also died in the fire), is inconsolable as his body is laid to rest at Saturday’s funeral in Malad. Pic/Nimesh Dave

Mushtaq Shaikh, 50, lost his son, Taha, 19, and a good friend. The two were more like buddies, he says, and since the son loved travelling, Shaikh would lure him into doing well at college by promising him a trip, like the January jaunt to Manali they were planning.

Family members with Taha Shaikh’s (inset) father Mushtaq, at their Kurla home. Pic/Saeed Sameer Abedi
Family members with Taha Shaikh’s (inset) father Mushtaq, at their Kurla home. Pic/Saeed Sameer Abedi

The nature of the accident made it tougher for the families to handle the loss since most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition. Shaikh recognised Taha by a mark on his feet. “His room had just been renovated according to his wishes. It now doesn’t have an occupant,” says Shaikh, a builder. His son was laid to rest at a cemetery near their Kurla home at 2 am on Saturday morning.

Akash Thapar’s family was less understanding, and keen that the accused pay for their loss. Thapar is survived by a father, who is paralysed, and a mother who works as an insurance agent. Monica Thapar, his sister, recognised his body by his belt buckle.

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According to a friend, who didn’t wish to be named, Thapar and deceased Brian Fernando, 19, were inseparable. Fernando’s parents, Anthony and Sudha, and his brothers, Agnel and Charles left for Chennai on Saturday afternoon to hold his funeral. Vidya Jadhav, their neighbour said, “He was a studious chap. His parents are inconsolable.”

Sharjeel Shaikh, 20, a resident of Millat Nagar in Andheri, has left behind a family still looking for answers. “Sharjeel’s friends contacted us to say his phone couldn’t be reached, and we rushed to his college. On the way, we were told about the fire, and therefore, turned to go to Rajawadi Hospital,” said Jalil Ahmed Shaikh, 49, his father.

The family completed his burial rites on Saturday at 3 am. His father, a visual merchandiser, shared that Sharjeel and his friends had big plans for the future. “They were planning to study further and start a firm to develop apps.”

Hailing from a humble home in Bhiwandi Chawl, Sajid Chaudhary, 20, the son of a junk dealer, was the hope of a family of six. His engineering education was tough for them to support but they managed. His brother Javed, who works in a tailoring shop, said it was a nightmare going through eight charred bodies to identify Sajid. “Hamare saath bahut bura hua,” he said.

Jacintha D’Souza, mother to Bernadette, 19, said they had lost an optimistic, talented member of their family. “She was a livewire. She played basketball for the college, choreographed dances for society functions, was brilliant at academics and loved photography. She’d say, ‘Mamma, don’t worry, I’ll get a swanky job and support the family’.” Her friend and fellow basketball enthusiast, Kinjal Chavan, calls her “fun loving and a really good player”.

Her friend, Erwin D’Souza, with whom she was sharing a meal at City Kinara, was laid to rest on Saturday in Malad. “Erwin was my first friend in the building. We used to play football. I can’t believe he is gone,” said Abhishek Motwani, a resident of Sagittarius society, where D’Souza lived.

Always helpful, he is remembered by his cousin, Dyane Gigool for saving her daughter’s life when he rushed her to Nanavati Hospital during an illness. All that D’Souza’s brother, Aldon managed to say was, “Come back soon.” The only non-student at lunch that afternoon was Arvind Kanojia, 32, a resident of Virar.

The foodie with a love for spicy fare would often visit Kinara. His wife is worried about the education of their kids, Shivangi (7) and Shivam (5). Kanojia worked as a structural engineer with Sterling Consultancy, and with him gone, the family’s responsibility rests with his older brother, Dinesh, a chemical engineer. “What is disturbing is that no one has taken responsibility for the accident. Not just eight lives, but entire families have been destroyed due to negligence,” he said.

- By Varun Singh, Shailesh Bhatia, Shreya Bhandary, Sadguru Pandit and Tanvi Deshpande

A college mourns
The Don Bosco Technical Institute campus in Kurla wore a somber look on Saturday morning, with the staff and students coming to terms with the loss.

Don Bosco Technical Institute. Pic/Sayed Sameer AbediDon Bosco Technical Institute. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

“Our children are still traumatized, so for starters, we have planned counselling to help them cope,” said Fr Colbert, campus in-charge. On Tuesday, the college will come together for a condolence meet in memory of the seven students.

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