A senior citizen was killed and two others injured after aluminium cladding on the new building of the Churchgate station collapsed on Wednesday afternoon due to “strong winds and rain”.
The deceased was identified as 62-year-old Madhukar Narvekar, a Dahisar resident. According to police, he was walking past the building when the cladding fell, hitting him on the chest and head. Narvekar was rushed to Gokuldas Tejpal hospital, where he was declared dead. According to a doctor, he was bleeding from the left ear and had a head injury.
“There was also an internal injury in his chest. He died before we could start any treatment. We suspect a brain haemorrhage,” the doctor said, adding that the postmortem report was awaited.
Senior Inspector Vasant Wakhare from Azad Maidan police station said, “We have lodged an accidental death report. A woman also suffered injuries but she left in a taxi.” He added that another man received minor injuries.
Ravinder Bhakar, chief public relations officer of the Western Railway (WR), said “The wind speed was extremely high due the the closeness of Cyclone Vayu to the city. This is the main reason why the cladding collapsed.”
He said the incident was being probed and if any manual fault was found, “deserving punishment” will be handed out to those responsible. According to the Met department, the Maharashtra coastline recorded wind speeds of 50 to 70 kmph.
Later in the evening, the WR announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh to Narvekar’s family. Narvekar, who worked at a garment store in Colaba, had retired just a month ago. He was on his way to collect his pending dues from the store when the incident happened on the footpath outside the station.
A passerby, Bhumika Patel, informed his family after finding his phone book, which he was carrying in his chest pocket. He was not carrying a mobile phone.
“I tried taking him to the hospital in a taxi because he was bleeding profusely. The police stopped me, and told me to wait for a van and a stretcher. Till then, people just looked on,” she said, adding that shortly after, another cladding fell on a group of people, injuring two others.
The cladding panels are part of the 81-feet-long and 54-feet-wide mural of Mahatma Gandhi on the east side external facade of the building. According to WR officials, six aluminium cladding panels of 2.4 x 1.2 m fell from the second and third floors.
“I was in Dahisar when I got a call about the accident,” said Narvekar’s son Hemant, a bus driver. His sister Suchita received a call from Patel and rushed to GT hospital. “We are not in a state to blame anyone. But I want to understand how this structure collapsed and hurt him,” Hemant said.
Another relative Anil said the railways must take responsibility for Narvekar’s death. He is survived by three children – two daughters and a son. “He had just retired; this was the route he had taken for 20 years to work, and not a single incident happened. He only planned to visit the store, settle all dues and return by train,” Anil added.
Narvekar was physically fit, he said, adding that he would travel from Dahisar to work daily. A senior officer from the WR said the Gandhi mural had been installed in November 2017. Bhakar said the work was being conducted under a corporate social responsibility initiative, adding that a three-member team will inspect the premises to identify other hazardous zones following which it will submit a report in one week.