Five people were killed and 10 others were injured after a speeding vehicle rammed into an ambulance along with four other vehicles that had halted on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link to provide help to a group of people injured in an accident on the southbound stretch of the bridge in Mumbai early on Wednesday.
The five persons who were run over by the speeding SUV (A Hyundai Creta) were employees working at the toll plaza of the sea link; they were trying to save the victims of another accident that had taken place only a few minutes ago, police said.
Worli police, which has registered a case of rash and negligent driving, arrested the driver of the Creta – identified as real estate developer Irfan Abdul Raheem Beelkia, 40 – from his home at south Mumbai’s Mohammed Ali Road. The police suspect that he was distracted by his mobile phone due to which he lost control over his car and rammed into the stationary vehicles.
Elaborating on the sequence of events, police officials said that around 2.40 am, a car (A Maruti Swift) travelling in the south-bound direction of the sea link suffered a tyre burst. Four persons – identified as Siddharth Joel, Rehan Patel, Aliya Bhateen and Shahane Portugal – were travelling in the vehicle at the time.
“Due to its (tyre burst’s) impact, the driver lost control on the vehicle, which hit the railing on the fourth lane of the sea link,” a police officer said.
One of the guards posted on the sea link, identified as 40-year-old Rajendra Singhal, informed the toll plaza about the accident following which a six-member team comprising toll plaza employees Chetan Kadam (35), Gajraj Singh (42), Satendra Singh (35) and Hemant Toraskar, ambulance driver Somnath Salve (32), and Krishna Yadav, the driver of the towing vehicle, left for the spot.
“Soon after we received information, as per protocol, a team of six along with an ambulance and towing vehicle was sent to the spot. It was to clear the traffic,” K Chauhan, a toll plaza employee, said.
Worli police said the drivers of the towing van and the ambulance parked their respective vehicles ahead of the car that had met with the accident and proceeded to help the injured.
“Subsequently, two vehicles, a Baleno driven by a man called Neel Vara and a Mercedes, stopped ahead of these vehicles to help them,” said a senior police officer. “Two doctors identified as Ankuj Tinha and Shivani Nair working in the Indian Navy were travelling in the Mercedes; they believed that someone had gotten injured due to which they stopped to check,” the officer added.
Around this time, at 2.53am, a speeding Creta dashed the Swift car from behind, police said. “The impact was so huge that the car rammed into the ambulance, which further hit the vehicles that were parked ahead of it,” said a police officer.
The police control room was then informed about the incident after which a large number of ambulances and police vans left for the accident spot. “We thought that some VIP must have been a victim but later, we came to know that it was our people who had suffered,” said Chauhan.
The police, with the help of ambulances, rushed everyone to Nair hospital following which some of the injured persons got admitted in private hospitals.
Kadam, Gajraj Singh, Satendra Singh, Salve and Singhal were declared brought dead at the hospital.
Toraskar, Yadav, Joel, Patel, Bhateen, Portugal, Vara, Tinha and Nair are injured and still in hospital, the police added. The condition of some of the injured is said to be critical.
Irfan, the driver of Creta, also suffered injuries on his hand.
Senior police inspector Anil Koli of Worli police station said, “Irfan had gone to Jogeshwari to meet his brother. The accident took place when he was heading home.”
Soon after the incident, the police said, Irfan got himself treated at Saifee hospital and left for home. “Later, while looking for more details on the vehicle, we came to know about him (Irfan) and a team was sent to his address from where he was taken in custody on Wednesday afternoon,” said Koli.
Police inspector Amar Jagdale, who is investigating the case, said the injured persons were not in a state to give a statement. “We want them to get stable after which we will record their statements in detail which will help us in ascertaining more facts on the incident,” he added.
“Irfan was driving on the second lane of the sea link but suddenly he jumped to the fourth lane before dashing into the Swift which we suspect was because he got distracted by his phone,” said a senior officer.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted after the accident: “Pained by the loss of lives due to an accident on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in Mumbai. Condolences to the bereaved families. I hope that those who have been injured have a speedy recovery.”
Meanwhile, due to the accident, the vehicular movement on the sea link was briefly affected. “We had to close the fourth lane around the spot; movement was affected. However, the vehicles (involved in the accident) were moved aside and it (traffic) was restored within an hour of the accident,” said an officer.