While poor infrastructure on the Mumbai-Goa highway (NH17) has been blamed for several fatal accidents in the past, state highway police officials claim that Sunday night's mishap was mostly because of poor visibility during the heavy rain.
Ten members of a family from Malad and their driver were killed after colliding with a dumper-truck coming from the opposite direction.
“The accident took place during the night when visibility is already not very good. Plus it was raining and the sky was cloudy. All of this combined hindered visibility to a great extent and is suspected to be the main cause of the collision,” said Vijay Kamble, additional director general of police, highways.
Kamble said the place where the accident took place was not a blind spot and did not have any sharp turns.
The victims of the accident have been identified as Anant Chavan, 56, wife Anita, 60, elder son Rakesh, 28, wife Nita, 23, their son Harsh, 8 months, Chavan's younger son Haresh, 26, daughter Sujata Mane, 23, husband Kashiram, 40, their children Anushka, 8 and Avishkar, 5, and the driver Prashant Manjre, 28.
According to the police, the occupants were asleep at the time of the accident. As the vehicle was travelling on a bridge near Anjani railway station, it had a head-on collision with the dumper.
Both the vehicles were extensively damaged and it took the highway police around two hours to remove the bodies from the mangled remains.
The Mumbai-Goa highway is often criticised for its narrow stretch, lack of dividers, speed breakers, signboards and railings on bridges.
Transport expert Ashok Datar said there was need for improving the basic infrastructure on the NH17 to avoid accidents.
“There has to be a divider or segregation of some kind. This will ensure that vehicles on one side will not skid over to the other. There have to be reflectors on all vehicles and also on the road to prevent accidents,” Datar said.
Western India Automobile Association (WIAA) chairman Nitin Dossa said, “Why is the government taking so much time to widen the highway or install basic infrastructure facilities when so many lives are being lost? There has to be some sense of urgency.”