About a decade ago, he was felicitated by the police for saving the life of a girl after a road accident in Mumbai’s Worli. In 2016, CCTV footage showed him pulling back a man dangling from the Bandra-Worli sea link trying to end his life. Around 2.40 am Wednesday, he responded to yet another call — about a car with four passengers hitting a railing on the sea link following a burst tyre.
This was the last distress call that 36-year-old Chetan Kadam, a security supervisor, would attend. Minutes later, another speeding car slammed into the handful of rescuers, including Kadam, who had gathered at the site. And he was among the five people who were killed.
“Kadam had been on night duty since 2009 and attended most of the accident calls. Today, he himself became a victim,’’ Pramod Sawant, Kadam’s childhood friend, said.
“He specialised in distracting people who wanted to commit suicide by jumping off the sea link. When he began his career, he had saved the life of a young girl at Worli and was felicitated by the then police commissioner Arup Patnaik. Thereafter, he saved many lives. He was also a professional in removing accident victims from mangled cars and getting them admitted to hospitals,” said Rajesh Kedar, a former senior supervisor of Kadam.
The four others killed were ambulance driver Somnath Salve (29), and toll employees near the link Gajraj Singh (42), Satyendra Singh (35) and Rajendra Singhal (40). The three toll employees hailed from Uttar Pradesh. Ten others were injured, including Kadam’s colleague Hemant Toraskar who is undergoing treatment at Lilavati Hospital.
According to police, all of them were providing help to those injured in the first accident when, about 15 minutes later, a speeding Hyundai Creta driven by a south Mumbai resident identified as Irfan Abdul Raheem Beelkia hit the group at high speed. Beelkia, who is a real estate developer, has been arrested in a case of rash and negligent driving.
Detailing the sequence of events, police officers said the first accident occurred when the driver of a Maruti Swift car “lost control” of the vehicle after the front tyre on the left burst and they hit the railing on the fourth southbound lane of the link. The four persons in the car, who suffered minor injuries, have been identified as Siddharth Joel, Rehan Patel, Aliya Bhateen and Shahane Fortunal.
Rajendra Singhal, who was posted on the link, informed the toll plaza about the accident following which a six-member team of Kadam, Toraskar, Gajraj, Satendra, tow vehicle driver Krishna Yadav and Salve in his ambulance, reached the spot. They were in the middle of rescue operations when the second vehicle rammed them.
Later Wednesday, as news of Kadam’s death spread, his relatives rushed to the Nair Hospital where doctors had declared him dead, and to his residence in Prabhadevi. Over 25 people who had gathered at the hospital were seen trying to console Kadam’s younger brother Prasad.
A native of Kudal in Sindhudurg, Kadam is survived by his wife, their three-year-old son and his mother. He was a vice president of the NCP’s youth wing, and had founded a non-profit Yugg Pravarthak Pratisthan that provides free ambulance services.
One of those who had reached the hospital, Kadam’s “close associate” Jitendra Pawar, recalled a viral video from six years ago. It showed Kadam trying to convince a 27-year-old youth, who was facing “family problems and financial hardships”, to not jump off the sea link before pulling him back to safety. “He had helped many such people,” Pawar said.
At Nair Hospital, the family of ambulance driver Salve, too, had arrived. Inconsolable, Salve’s wife Sonali (26) was on the floor with her three children — two sons aged seven and four, and a two-year-old daughter.
Salve’s brother-in-law, Vicky Tapase, who works at a fast-food outlet said the family lives in Nerul village. Tapase said, “Who will take care of his children now? He had just completed one month as an ambulance driver. He had to sell his car to pay for his mother’s treatment and started working as a private driver. Now how do I tell his mother that her son is no more? I hope the government helps us with compensation to help educate his children. “