Vile Parle locality plunges into grief as it loses seven young men to road accident; eighth critically injured, while another survives the tragedy because he decides to take train
Cops say the driver slept at the wheel leading to the accident. Pics/Dilip Jadhav
“I’m missing Mayur. He’s coming back, right? Bring him back.” A mother’s misgiving punctuates the silent grief that has enveloped Vile Parle’s Shivaji Nagar lane. No one’s told her yet of the tragedy that has befallen the family, but a mother just knows.
The speeding car crashed into a tree in Ratnagiri district on the Mumbai-Goa highway
Seven families from the locality lost their sons to an ill-fated Goa trip yesterday.
Eight friends - Prashant Gurav (31), Sachin Sawant (31), Mayur Belnekar (25), Kedar Todkar (25), Akshay Kelkar (24), Nihal Kotiyan (22), Vaibhav Manve (32) and Abhishek Kambli (19) - set off in a Xylo from Mumbai around 12.30 am and crashed into a tree near Khanu, Pali Gaon, Ratnagiri, on the Mumbai-Goa highway around seven hours later. While seven of them were pronounced dead at the Civil Hospital in Ratnagiri, Kambli is said to have sustained grievous injuries. The group was to return on Sunday. Efforts to shift Kambli to Sion Hospital were underway last night.
Read Story: Seven pals from Mumbai die on the way to Goa
Anil Vibhute, senior inspector of Gramin police station in Ratnagiri, said it’s suspected that the driver, Gurav, fell asleep while speeding and drove into a tree.
So mangled was the wreckage that two cranes, besides locals, had to be deployed to retrieve the bodies.
Victim Mayur Belnekar’s mother was not told of the tragedy but knew something was amiss. Pics/Nimesh Dave
The Gramin police will question a ninth friend from Mumbai who was supposed to join the gang in Goa. “He took the train as there was no space left in the car. We have summoned him for questioning,” said Vibhute.
He said no liquor bottle was found in the car.
Ratnagiri Superintendent of Police Pranay Ashok said an accident case has been registered and the victims’ medical and post-mortem examination reports were awaited.
Families and friends of the youths wait for the bodies at Shivaji Nagar, Vile Parle
Kindness knew no bounds
The friends, who are also Shiv Sena supporters and workers, had set off for a bit of fun before immersing themselves in the party’s campaigning work for the BMC election. “The trip was a break from all the hard work they had already put in. They were excited about getting back to campaigning on full throttle,” said Anand Pathak, a friend and co-worker from Shiv Sena, who had planned to go on the Goa trip.
The group had their meetings and gatherings at a small area amidst the densely packed houses of Shivaji Nagar. “They used to come and sit here every day. It will be hard to see the empty chairs now,” said a woman shopkeeper, who had her stall opposite the gathering spot.
The youths were also part of a group, Lakshya Foundation, which has been taking people on annual trips to Shirdi at nominal rates for the last five years. “Beside their jobs, they worked for the underprivileged, such as volunteering at health camps, and took senior citizens on Shirdi trips for as less as R110 per person,” said Pathak.
Warned against taking car
Kshitij Rathod, a close friend and neighbour of Sawant, said he had warned the youths against driving to Goa. “I asked them to take a train, instead. But, they wanted to drive in Akshay [Kerkar]’s brother’s new Xylo. I wish they had listened to me.”
His mother recalled the youths’ kindness and eagerness to help out the needy. “None of us has been able to come to terms with the tragedy.”
Parag Alavani, ward corporator, said he hadn’t met the families since a number of them were still in the dark. “My prayers are with the families.”
Pathak voiced the families’ grief. “They are broken. Their sole hope, their only motivation to live has died. The families survived on the money they (the youths) earned.”
A neighbour said most of the families had not been told of the tragedy as of last night, including Belnekar’s mother. “We just don’t have the heart to tell them yet.”
The funeral of the seven youths is at 9 am today.
With inputs from Chaitraly Deshmukh and Asif Rizvi
Wedding bells were ringing
Prashant Gurav’s family was in the midst of wedding preparations when news of the tragedy broke. His sister was to get married on February 12. He was also planning his marriage with his long-time girlfriend.
Had bright futures
Mayur Belnekar ran a vada pav stall. Prashant Gurav was a make-up artist and Akshay Kerkar a freelance make up artist. Kedar Todkar was job hunting, while Vaibhav Manve was an LIC agent. Nihal Kotian worked with Reliance Metro and Sachin Sawant was an accountant at transport and logistics company Maersk. Kambli is a student of Sathaye College in Vile Parle East.