Within hours, joyous celebrations that mark every Indian wedding had given way to gloom of death and feeling of loss. The tragic accident on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway that claimed 29 lives has shattered all sense of normalcy for the kin, neighbours and friends of the victims in Laxminagar area of Yerawada.
As the news of the tragedy spread in the wee hours yesterday, friends and relatives of the deceased and injured living in adjoining areas started thronging the homes of the bridegroom and other victims at Laxminagar and Nagpur chawl in Yerawada. Three families, including that of Eknath Bahule — the bridegroom — have been particularly hard hit. Shreekant Kamble (40), his wife Nirmala and 13-year-old daughter Shraddha died in the accident, while their 10-year-old son Omkar Kamble miraculously survived. Shreekant worked as a driver, Nirmala was employed as a maidservant, while Shraddha was a class IX student.
They didn’t return
“They left for the wedding in the morning and were expected to return by midnight on Sunday. We received news at 3 am that their bus had met with an accident and several people had died,” said Harsha Kamble, a relative of the family. Dipak Sonawane lost his wife and two sons in the accident. He said, “We were returning from Mumbai and our driver halted the bus on the roadside near Khalapur toll plaza, as the vehicle had developed some problem. Several people got down from the bus for some fresh air, when suddenly a truck collided with our bus. I lost my wife, Reshma and two sons Swapnil and Om.”
Kalpana Ajay Bahule (32) — wife of the bridegroom’s cousin — and her daughter Arya (8) also lost their lives in the accident. The bridegroom’s mother, Leela Bahule, said the marriage ceremony got over at 8 pm on Sunday and they began the return journey to Pune at 10 pm from Ghatkopar in Mumbai. The groom’s party had three minibuses, in which their relatives and friends were supposed to return to Pune. “Near Khalapur toll plaza, our bus halted at the side of the highway. As it was very hot inside the bus, we got down and sat on the road. The third bus also halted when the driver saw our bus had stopped,” Leela said.
She added that some people were standing on the road while others were seated on the side. “ I heard a big crash and saw that a truck had collided with our buses and several people got crushed under. A few others and I were saved as we were standing at a safe distance. I lost my niece Kalpana and her daughter Arya. The entire incident was so horrific that I am not able to come to terms with it,” Leela added.
Balasaheb Gaikwad’s daughter Swapna Gaikwad (24), his sister-in-law and her two children died in the accident. “I lost my daughter. My brother Suresh Gaikwad lost his wife, Mangal, daughter Sanjana (23) and son Shubham (21). My daughter and Sanjana were working in a BPO company in Yerawada and Shubham was employed with a marketing firm,” he said.
Corporator covers last rites expense
The Pune civic body has come forward to bear the expenses of the injured. Mayor Vaishali Bankar said, “As the injured are from financially weak families, we have decided to bear the expenses. The injured will be admitted in Ruby Hall Clinic for further treatment.” The injured are currently admitted in hospitals in Panvel. Yerawada ward officer Umesh Mali said that the expenditure for cremation of the 29 people killed in the accident was borne by the local corporator and residents. The cremations were performed at different places in Yerawada, where hundreds of people turned up to offer their condolences to the grieving families of the dead. “The PMC will also bear the expenses of the injured under Poor Urban Health Scheme,” Mali said.