The Bahule family in Yerwada’s Laxmi Nagar area was getting ready to welcome Jagannath Bahule and his newly wedded bride on Monday, instead the news of the horrific accident that had befallen the wedding party reached them first thing in the morning.
Though the newlyweds, who were travelling in an SUV, escaped unhurt, 27 members of the wedding party were crushed to death and 28 others injured when a speeding tempo smashed into their bus, which was parked on one side of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
After the wedding at the bride’s place in Bhatwadi, Ghatkopar, the party was on its way to Yerwada in Pune.
The incident took place after the tyre of one of the two mini-buses the people were travelling in developed a puncture and both buses were parked on the side of the Expressway.
Most of the victims were friends and relatives of the groom. They were sitting in the space between the two parked buses when the tempo crashed into the rear bus, which smashed into the one parked ahead, crushing those sitting in between.
Members of the Bahule family stood speechless as the bodies began to arrive at Yerwada. Shops and other business remained closed through the evening and bodies continued to arrive in batches.
“This is unbelievable. Just yesterday, people’s faces shone with joy. How could this happen?” said Prashant Zagde, a youth from Nagpur chawl in Laxmi Nagar. As a gesture of grief and condolence, many households refrained from cooking and no meals were prepared.
Dr Siddharth Dhende, a local corporator, said that the municipal corporation was extending its support and cooperation to victims’ relatives. He said the last rites would be performed at the Yerwada crematorium and the municipal corporation would make special arrangements.
RD Shinde, police superintendent, Raigad, said, “We have booked tempo driver Somnath Phadtare for rash and negligent driving causing death. He was not drunk.” Shinde, who inspected the spot and visited the injured, said, “Minutes earlier, the IRB personnel (IRB operates and maintains the Expressway) patrolling the highway had warned the bus passengers against sitting on the side of the road and had asked them to be careful of the speeding vehicles.”