26/11 ‘fighter’ dies battling Mumbai blaze

He led fire-fighting at Taj, died a day before promotion.

Written by Tanushree Venkatraman | Mumbai | Published: May 16, 2015 3:47:16 am
Mumbai Fire officer, Fire officer dies, Mumbai fire officer dies, Sudhir Amin, Sudhiar Amin fire, India news At Sudhir Amin’s funeral in Mumbai on Thursday. (Source: Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

The firefighter who braved the heat during the 26/11 attacks, a friend that colleagues and their families in distress turned to, a passionate trekker, a family man.

On Thursday, after five days in hospital, deputy chief fire officer, Sudhir Amin succumbed to injuries sustained while battling a fire in Mumbai’s congested Kalbadevi last week. The fire force had lost not one but many heroes rolled into one popular frame. And that too, a day before his boss signed his promotion papers.

On Friday, a colleague summed up the 49-year-old’s life and career in one sentence: “He was a fighter.”

A recipient of the President’s Gallantry Award, the veteran is best remembered for the night of November 26, 2008. “He faced the initial heat at the Taj hotel till we arrived at the spot,” said acting chief fire officer P S Rahangdale.

“We were given two priorities — to rescue guests trapped inside the Taj and fight the fire. I remember going inside the hotel with Amin to rescue guests stuck in the Crystal Room,” Rahangdale added.

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Though on leave that day, Amin was first rushed to Wadi Bunder at 10.30 pm where a taxi had caught fire. He was then sent to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) to check on the condition of victims being taken to St George Hospital.

“He then got another call that there was a serious mishap at Taj and that he had to rush there. Once there, he virtually led the rescue operations,” said another fire official.

An assistant divisional fire officer at the time, Amin made use of aerial ladders to rescue people stuck on the second and third floor of the hotel.

“Those may have been the toughest rescue operations in our career but what was tougher was to sign on his promotion papers, a day after his death,” Rahangdale said.

But then, Amin’s close friends, colleagues and their families have many other stories to remember him by.

“If my brother was alive even for four days after his accident, it was because of Sudhir Amin,” said Kavita Sangrulkar, who lost her brother Abhay Mohite, a fireman in 2008.

Sangrulkar says Mohite was on duty when a tree crushed his spine in Nariman Point, and needed a security deposit of Rs 1 lakh for admission at Bombay Hospital.

“His colleagues did not have the money. It was Amin who came forward and paid that amount from his own pocket,” Sangrulkar added.

K V Hiwrale, Amin’s batchmate and deputy chief fire officer, said he could still hear Amin’s laughter at the force’s HQ in Wadala.

“Amin used to stay with his parents, two brothers and three sisters in a one-room flat in Kherwadi during our training days. He would call me home to have food. He just loved making friends,” he said.

Being the eldest in the family, Amin also took up the responsibility for getting his sisters married, his relatives said. Nitin Patil, a school friend, said he had set up an adventure club with Amin and they would trek to Bhimashankar in the Sahyadris every monsoon.

The labels continue: a specialist in rope and rescue operations, a parade commander, a cyclist, a rappler, Amin had also completed a specialised course from Member Institute of Fire Engineers, London.

But it’s probably his motto in life that would stand the test of time. As batchmate Hirwale said, “Whatever happens, happens for the best, Amin used to say.”

(With inputs from Neha Kulkarni)

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