The two male domestic helps who lost their lives in Tuesday’s early morning fire in a plush Cuffe Parade building are believed to have died due to suffocation. Ajay Ram Saroj (24) and Pradeep Vir Kundan (22) were found dead in their sleep in a narrow room that housed their beds, built like a bunk bed system, one above the other.
A forensic examination found smoke in their trachea, redness in their eyes and clots in their brain. “They must have inhaled the fumes, most likely carbon monoxide, for over 25 minutes which led to their death,” said a doctor at St George Hospital, where both men were pronounced dead on Tuesday.
All seven members of the Bajaj family, who live in the flat, were rescued. The two domestic helps were found in a “rested position suggesting they were asleep”. According to medical experts, there was no sign of struggle to indicate they were awake and had attempted to escape.
For Saroj’s family, who live in a remote village in Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh, they not only lost their eldest son but also their sole breadwinner for a family of six. “I got a call much later, at 11 am. I rushed to the building where he worked. But they did not allow me inside,” said Deepak Paswan, Saroj’s brother-in-law.
Saroj suffered 42 per cent burns and Kundan 50 per cent, which doctors claim were “not severe”. The burns were on their back, shoulder, legs and forearms. According to hospital superintendent Dr J B Bhavani, the samples of lungs, esophagus and certain tissues have been sent for forensic analysis.
Saroj migrated to Mumbai about five years ago. While he first worked in Vashi, he later shifted to Marine Lines where he worked as a domestic help. In 2015, he landed a job as a cook in the Cuffe Parade flat.
He had married three years ago and decided to switch jobs to earn better for his family. He met his wife Lakshmi in Mumbai and the two had a love marriage following which she shifted to his village in UP. His wife and two-year-old son Nikhil were informed of his death. “I met him 15 days ago. He was so young and always cheerful,” said Jugnu Kanojia, his relative.
Saroj would often meet his friends and other house helps in the building during weekends. Pradeep would accompany him occasionally, said Rohit Paswan, who worked at Maker Chamber’s 10th floor until a week ago.