Minutes before a truck crashed into two mini-buses that stood one behind the other in the breakdown lane on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway at 12.15 am yesterday and caused the death of 29 people, a highway patrolling party had warned the people from the buses against crowding around their vehicles. The accident left 26 people injured.
The IRB said its patrol party had also signalled to the truck driver to stop, but to no avail.
One of the minibuses ferrying the wedding guests to Pune develops a flat tyre and halts on the expressway
A highway patrol official spots a truck speeding towards the parked vehicles on the gravel path by the side of the Expressway. The official aims his flashlight at the truck driver asking him to halt the truck. However, the truck driver who was allegedly dozing on the wheel did not respond at all and kept speeding towards the parked vehicles
The truck rams into the minibus and the impact of the crash propels the stationary vehicle forward, in the process crushing the people between the two mini buses. 29 people died in the mishap and 26 were injured.
Returning to Pune from the wedding ceremony of Eknath Baban Bahule (27) in Ghatkopar in two minibuses, a tyre of one of the buses was deflated near Mauje Dhamani village that is barely a kilometre from the Khalapur toll plaza. The bus halted to repair the damaged tyre, and the second bus also stopped to help out.
As the tyre was being changed, the passengers from the two buses decided to rest between the two vehicles — some sat on the road, some stretched out, and some just stood there. That is when a speeding truck coming from Mumbai rammed into one of mini-buses from behind.
The impact of the accident was such that the minibus that the truck had rammed into collided with the bus in front, crushing the people resting between the two vehicles. Among the dead were 15 women and eight children. All the deceased and injured were residents of Laxminagar and Nagpur Chawl in Yerawada, Pune.
Of the six accident victims sent to Sassoon General Hospital in Pune, three were declared brought dead. Two patients, Abhijeet Pawar (25) and Laxmi Kamble (40), were discharged after treatment and one patient, Shashikala Devran Pathare (48), is admitted to ward 8 of the hospital.
“She (Pathare) has suffered head injuries and a femur fracture. She is stable now,” Dr D G Kulkarni, medical superintendent of Sassoon, said.
According to eyewitnesses, the IRB patrol officials near the buses first signalled to the truck driver to halt. When the truck driver did not stop, two officials got down from their car and even flashed a torch at the truck driver, but the truck sped on and knocked one of the officials down — he sustained a fracture in the leg — before ramming into the minibus ahead.
The Khalapur police arrested the truck driver, Somnath Dnyandev Phadtare (25) of Sultanwadi in Koregaon, Satara.
Additional Director General of Police Vijay Kamble said Phadtare had been driving for hours without a break. Kamble said Phadtare had gone from Kolhapur to Mumbai and was on his return journey when the accident happened.
“The patrolling party which tried to stop the truck driver, who was recklessly driving in the reserve lane, said that he was not paying heed to any of their instructions,” Kamble said. “The road is undulating in this lane, and we suspect that Phadtare was almost asleep while driving his vehicle.”
Khalapur’s killer stretch km 19 to km 33
As per records obtained from the Khalapur police station, on an average, about six to seven cases of accidents are registered on the Khalapur stretch — kilometre 19 to kilometre 33 — of the Mumbai-Pune expressway on a monthly basis.
According to the police officials, the accident, which occurred in the wee hours of Monday, was reported from kilometre 30. Of the 31 cases registered since January, most of the accidents have occurred during nighttime.
The officials said that most of these accidents occurred when drivers doze off behind the wheels.
According to an on-duty policeman, accidents also take place when vehicles develop a technical snag and drivers park them at the side of the road or when drivers stop to answer nature’s call.
13:05 - The wedding mahurat was scheduled for 13.05 at Samaj Kalyan Mandir Kendra, Ghatkopar (W). But the ceremony was delayed, as guests from Pune had not arrived
15:00 - The wedding ceremony commenced and went on till 16.30
19:30 - The 60 guests from Pune began preparations for their return journey. The minibuses arrived around 19.45, and then they proceeded on their journey
22:00 - The bride, the groom, the groom’s mother and other relatives commenced their journey in a tempo for Pune after assembling and packing all the wedding gifts
23:00 - A tyre of one of the Pune-bound minibuses was punctured on the expressway. Both the buses halted and switched on their tail lights. The guests got down and assembled between the two buses, while the tyre was being replaced
00:10 - A highway patrol vehicle halted near the two buses and was offering to help
00:15 - A speeding truck rammed into the stationary mini bus from behind. The impact of the mishap caused the bus to run over the people sitting between the two buses crushing them
04:00 - The bride’s grandfather, Sopan Kokate, gets a call from one of the relatives informing him about the tragic accident
05:30 - The Mumbai-based relatives of the injured left for Pune to locate their kin who were admitted at different hospitals between Panvel and Pune