The parking lights of the stationary Maruti Swift car that the passenger bus rammed into on the dark stretch of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway were not functioning, eyewitnesses said.
The accident occurred around 4.30 am when it was still “pitch dark”, said the group of youngsters travelling from Lonavala to Mumbai in an Innova, which also came in the way of the speeding bus.
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Speaking to The Indian Express, Ashish Patil, who was driving the Innova, said they noticed the Swift car parked on the side of the road with its driver signalling for help. “We halted since we saw there were two women in the car with a toddler. The driver told us that they were unable to change the tyres and needed help with it. Four of us got down to help them,” said Patil, who is the complainant in the FIR registered at Panvel city police station.
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The Innova car, which halted to help the commuters in the Swift, was parked around 100 metres ahead of the Swift car. The bus first rammed into the Swift from behind. “The car remained on the road but turned due to the impact of the bus dashing into it. The speeding bus then dragged forward towards the Innova and took it down into the pit. The bus plunged over 20 feet below. Its rear wheels stuck on the road. Had the whole bus crashed, it would have caused more casualties,” said an official.
The Innova had six passengers, two of whom have sustained minor injuries.
When he got down to help the car occupants, Patil said, he noticed that the parking lights of the car were not on. The parking lights of a stationary vehicle which usually left on to alert other drivers.
“I told the woman seated on the front seat to switch them on. She said she didn’t know how to do it. I attempted to switch them on but they were not functioning. It was dangerous to park a car without any indication on the expressway and tried to switch on the indicator lights, but realised those were not working,” said Patil.
He said he was barely 4 feet away from the Swift when the bus rammed into it. “I did not see the bus coming, but it must have been at a speed of over 100km/hour looking at the impact of the collision,” Patil added.
Two of his friends, Sagar Patil and Bipin Mhatre, were sitting in the Innova. Patil said he jumped into the pit to save his friends.
“I was sleeping on the front seat. I did not see the bus coming. Within minutes, my friends pulled me out,” said Sagar, a resident of Ghansoli, Navi Mumbai.
Patil said another car, which was passing by, saw the accident and rushed to inform the highway helpline leading to an ambulance and fire brigade officials rushing to the spot for the rescue. “Though the lights were not working, the bus too was at a very high speed causing it to lose control. We had barely waited for 20 minutes to change the tyres when the bus rammed into our cars,” Patil said.