Seven people died and eight others suffered severe burn injuries after a petrol tanker bound for Mumbai turned turtle and exploded at the Charoti toll naka on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai national highway at Dahanu on Saturday afternoon.
Eyewitnesses said that within seconds, the tanker went up in flames and the fire engulfed the vehicles parked near Hotel Apsara, about 200 metres away.
Pradip Jadhav, the deputy superintendent of police (DySP) at Jawhar, said the seven dead included two children, the tanker driver, cleaner, another occupant of the tanker and two passengers sitting in a Tata Magic van plying towards Palghar.
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Four of the deceased have been identified as Seeta Dinesh Gupta, Reena Sunil Umbrasada and her two children Payal and Tejal.
The injured were rushed to a municipal hospital at Kasa in Dahanu. Five of them, reported to be seriously injured, were later shifted to the Wockhardt Hospital in Mulund. Three others suffered minor burn injuries.
The injured have been identified as Ram Nishad (45), Ramu Ravte (35), Veni Rasal (42), Anjali Lakshman Boba (14), Ankita Boba (7), Sangeeta Bujal (10), Gyaneshwar Chavan (40), Bhushan Sankhe (35), (PSI from the Kasa police station), Sunil Umrasada (25), Vijay Jhate (30) and Ashok Sharma (40).
According to police, the tanker carrying inflammable liquid was travelling towards Mumbai at a high speed when the driver lost control and crashed into few vehicles before exploding on NH8.
After the accident, the highway was partially closed for commuters for over four hours as attempts were made to douse the flames.
Jadhav said, “Due to the ongoing construction work of a flyover above the Charoti junction, the tanker from Jamnagar (GJ 6 ZZ 7918) skidded and rammed into the taxi and auto stand near the Apsara Hotel.”
“As we got a message about the incident, we informed the company that owned the tanker. The fire brigade from nearby Umargaon (Gujarat) rushed to the spot and flames were brought under control after four hours of fire-fighting,” he said.
The premises of the Hotel Apsara suffered up to 70 per cent damage due to the fire as the flames from the vehicles parked near the hotel swept up its walls.
The flames from the explosion also damaged a jeep, three Tata Magic taxi vans, three autorickshaws and 10 motorcycles.
Some of the clients who were trapped in the hotel due to the fire were later rescued by the fire personnel. “As it was lunch time, there were many truck drivers and passengers inside the hotel,” said Jadhav.
“Until the fire is completely extinguished, we would not be able to ascertain the number of people stuck inside the burning vehicles, but as of now, seven persons have been confirmed dead,” said an official.
“We have registered a case under Section 304 A (causing death by negligence) of the IPC against the tanker driver and are waiting for the officials of the company that owned the tanker to turn up at the police station for questioning,” Jadhav added.
He said that owing to severe burns, the police could not identify all the deceased and would have to wait for DNA analysis reports.
Police said Charoti Naka was a highly congested and accident-prone junction with four roads,one leading to Mumbai, one to Kasa, the third to Dahanu city and another towards Ahmedabad.