ACCIDENT WATCH: Crash kills student, eight others – blame pinned on speed

ACCIDENT WATCH: Crash kills student, eight others – blame pinned on speed – delay by police the cause of so many deaths ?!!

The Tata Magic that was crushed between two trucks near Old Malda on Sunday - so why the police delay in rescue operations, too scared of mob lynching ?!! (Surajit Roy)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Malda, Sept. 5: Nine persons, including an engineering student, were killed when a speeding, overcrowded Tata Magic was crushed between two trucks while trying to overtake a vehicle on a national highway in Old Malda this morning.

Sources said the accident occurred when the Tata Magic with 17 passengers — it is a seven-seater — tried to speed past a lorry while a truck stood parked on the right side of the road. The car was on its way from Malda to Balurghat in South Dinajpur.

“Another truck was coming from the opposite direction. The driver of the Tata Magic, in a bid to avert the head-on collision, rammed into the stationery truck. Within a few seconds, the speeding truck hit the van, killing a number of passengers on the spot,” said Krishna Saha, a witness.

Nine persons, including the driver, were injured in the accident that occurred on NH34 around 6.15am at Kaluadighi, 12km from here.

The screech of metal alerted the local people and truck drivers in a nearby motel, who rushed to the spot and began pulling out the passengers from the mangled remains. Old Malda police were informed, but they reached the site more than an hour later, alleged the residents.

“It was because of the delay on the part of the police to begin rescue operation that so many people died. We were trying our best to get the passengers out of the mangled van. If the passengers had been taken out earlier, some lives could have been saved,” said Abir Mondal, a resident of the area.

“As the police did not reach the site on time, we stopped a government bus to send the injured passengers and the bodies to the Malda District Hospital around 7.30am. The bus was going to Malda from Balurghat.”

The dead have been identified as Abdulahir Kafi, 28, Dilip Rajak, 40, Patharu Rajbanshi, 45, Ashok Mondal, 30, Baidya Burman, 42, Biswanath Singha, 30, Sheikh Khalil, 35, Sarit Shekhar Singha Roy, 18, and Abdus Sattar, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi national.

Sarit, a resident of Dancarhat in South Dinajpur, was pursuing a course in aviation at a private engineering college in Calcutta.

“He had applied for an educational loan which was recently sanctioned. Sarit was coming home to take the money. He was supposed to come on Monday but without informing us, he had started from Calcutta on Saturday. I came to know about his death from his friend’s father,” said Sarit’s father Shyamal Chandra Singha Roy, a bank employee.

Of the remaining seven, six were residents of Malda district and one was from South Dinajpur.

The local people raised a blockade on the highway to protest the late arrival of the police and ransacked a vehicle used by the law enforcers. Kalyan Mukherjee, the additional superintendent of police of Malda, reached the spot with additional forces. He met the agitators and assured action against policemen who were late in arriving. The two-hour long blockade was withdrawn around 10am.

The Malda District Hospital also witnessed chaotic scenes when family members of the injured passengers expressed anguish over the shortage of nurses and doctors at the emergency ward. However, after some time, the injured were provided with medicines and the bodies of the nine passengers were sent to the morgue for post-mortem.

Bhuban Mondal, the superintendent of police of Malda, said: “These vans often carry excess passengers on different routes by flouting rules. Passengers, too, take the risk by riding such vehicles. Today’s accident occurred because of excess number of passengers and over speed.”

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