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A year on, Mumbai Police to classify Elphinstone Road stampede as accident

The police investigation concurs with a report filed by the Western Railways, which had stated that a heavy downpour, combined with two trains pulling into both platforms and emptying out thousands of passengers into the staircases leading out into the exits, had led to the stampede.

Written by Srinath Rao | Mumbai |
September 28, 2018 7:10:49 am
A year on, Mumbai Police to classify Elphinstone Road stampede as accident The investigation has looked at the events of the morning of September 29, 2017, from every angle, police said. Pavan Khengre

A YEAR after 23 people died and 39 sustained injuries in a stampede on a foot overbridge at then Elphinstone Road station, the Mumbai Police has closed its investigation into the incident and is set classify it as a case of accident.

The investigation has looked at the events of the morning of September 29, 2017, from every angle, police said. After all other possibilities — including the theories that a criminal conspiracy or malicious intention may be involved — were eliminated, the investigators have decided to conclude that the incident was an accident, said officers.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deven Bharti said: “The stampede was caused as a result of rumours being spread among trapped passengers on the station staircase… the incident will be closed as an Accidental Death Report.” The police investigation concurs with a report filed in October last year by the Western Railways, which had stated that a sudden heavy downpour, combined with two trains pulling into both platforms and emptying out thousands of office-going passengers into the staircases leading out into the exits, had led to the stampede.

During investigation, the police had written to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) for its forecast of September 27 last year. The report, which details the amount and intensity of rain, forms a part of the police’s ADR. “The IMD and the BMC told us that there was an unusually high amount of rainfall after a gap of a fortnight, for 15 minutes, beginning 10 am. None of the passengers were prepared for the rain and took shelter at the foot of one staircase,” said a police officer.

A year on, Mumbai Police to classify Elphinstone Road stampede as accident Over the last one year, the police had recorded statements of close to a hundred people, including those of survivors, GRP and RPF personnel, station authorities and eyewitnesses.

Even as pressure began to build from those at the top of the staircase on those below, who were being crushed against the iron railings, the police said rumours began to spread that the bridge had collapsed, leading to further chaos. “Only one survivor told us that she had spotted a woman carrying a basket of flowers on her head falling to the ground and the flowers spilling to the floor. While some passengers started screaming ‘phool gira’, others misheard it as ‘pul gira’, the bridge has collapsed,” the officer said.

The circumstances leading to the stampede, the police said, took place in a manner that could not have been planned. “It was not a deliberate act. It was not as though someone had gathered beforehand and planned to spread a rumour and cause a stampede. That only left the possibility that the stampede was an unfortunate accident,” the officer added.

Over the last one year, the police had recorded statements of close to a hundred people, including those of survivors, GRP and RPF personnel, station authorities and eyewitnesses. However, a crucial piece of evidence in terms of CCTV footage was missing. “The staircase where the stampede took place was not covered by cameras,” the officer said.

The police had also sent skin and blood samples of a few deceased as well as postmortem reports of those crushed to the Kalina Forensic Sciences Laboratory. “Forensic tests concluded that internal injuries on the bodies and the condition of the skin samples were consistent with wounds caused by being crushed in a stampede,” another officer said.

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