Braveheart driver death: Family demands compensation from government
Prakash Patil, 40, who saved three kids before he drowned, is survived by his wife and children aged 16, 13 and 11; Vasai-Virar civic body has blamed developer for flooding
Heroic school bus driver Prakash Patil, 40, didn't think twice before jumping into a nullah to save three children who had fallen out of his vehicle. But now that he is dead, it's his three kids who need help. "He was a good person but would never have needed to rescue the kids at the cost of his life if the Vasai-Virar authorities had covered the drain," said his brother Manohar Patil, demanding compensation.
Prakash was the sole earner of the family, and is survived by his wife Pranali, daughter Neha, 16; and sons Harshal, 13; and Pratik, 11. His family members have demanded compensation from the government so that his children are well looked after.
Kimaya Patil, and her cousins Yednika and Harsh were getting swept away in the nullah when Prakash saved them
Prakash's brother Manohar blames the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) for his death. "If they had covered the nullah before the rains, none of this would have happened. Prakash was a devoted family man, but now who will take care of his children?" Manohar questioned.
No one is more sympathetic than Vinod Patil, father of Kimaya, one of the three children Prakash saved that day. "He was a very brave man and saved my daughter. Now the government must help his children, so that they are looked after well and educated properly. We will try to help his family too," said the grateful father.
Kimaya, 14, and her cousins Yednika Patil, 15, and Harsh, 13, were all saved by the heroic actions of Prakash. He was ferrying eight children home in his school bus on Monday, after school closed early because of heavy rains. Kimaya told mid-day, "The previous day, the vehicle had broken down in the rains, so the driver took a different route. But there was too much water on the road, so he stopped the van."
Prakash's family blame the VVMC for not covering the nullah earlier
He had planned to board an ST bus with the kids, as the buses are bigger and do not break down in the rain. But when they hailed a bus and tried to board it, Yednika was swept away by the overflowing nullah by the road.
Kimaya and Harsh tried to pull her out, but they too got dragged by the strong current. Prakash immediately dived in and pushed the children to safety. "He saved us but could not save himself," said Kimaya.
Too late to save him
One of the first people to reach the spot was Saddam Hussain, who was working at a construction site nearby. "I saw the three students clinging to iron rods in the drain, which was still under construction. The driver jumped inside and pushed them to safety one by one. But after pushing the last girl, he lost his grip on the rods and drowned."
Another witness added that when Prakash disappeared in the water, people opened manholes along the next 800 metres before fishing him out of the sewer. By the time the police and fire brigade arrived on the scene, he had stopped breathing.
Puja Joshi, mother of Atharva, another student in the bus, said, "He kept our children safe but lost his life in the process. Had he not been there, the children would not have survived. The government must come to his family's aid now."
Satish Lokhande, VVMC commissioner, said, "The area was under the care of a developer, and since the project is still incomplete, he has not handed it over to us. It is his responsibility to ensure the safety of people using that road. "We will conduct an inquiry into the death of the school bus driver and ensure that action is taken." Manjunath Shinge, Palghar SP, said, "We are verifying facts and, in case of negligence, we will take action."
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