A 36-year-old cab driver burnt to death in northeast Delhi’s Mandoli on Tuesday night after a Tata Indigo car he was driving suddenly caught fire on Wazirabad Road.
Family members of victim, identified as Sachin Tyagi, later alleged that several curious onlookers stood by the burning car, recording videos and clicking photos, but no one tried to help. They also said that he always carried a fire extinguisher in his car but was unable to use it on the fateful day.
Later, when Tyagi’s family reached the spot, several onlookers offered to transfer the videos that they had shot on their mobiles via WhatsApp, Bluetooth or ShareIt apps.
“What were we supposed to do with the videos when we knew that he had burnt beyond recognition,” asked Aadesh, a cousin of Tyagi.
Police said Tyagi’s cab operated for a Noida-based call centre and went up in flames near Mandoli Jail, right opposite Nand Nagri police station, around 10.15 pm on Tuesday.
Eyewitnesses said Tyagi had stopped to buy something from the local market around 10.15pm. He spotted fire in his engine moments after he had got back into his car. When his efforts to open the car’s doors and windows failed, he cried out for help. By the time fire fighters arrived at the scene around 15 minutes later, Tyagi had already burnt to death.
The police suspect that the fire might have jammed the central locking system of the vehicle, giving Tyagi no chance to escape.
“We did not spot any stones or bricks lying near the charred car, which means that the onlookers had made any serious attempts to break open the car’s windows and rescue my brother. They were busy recording a video of the incident,” alleged Aadesh, the victim’s cousin.
Tyagi’s family also said that if the crowd had even collected and poured water on the burning vehicle from a drain flowing right next to the road, then the driver’s life could have been saved.
“The incident happened next to a residential colony. People came out of their homes to watch the fire, but no body had the presence of mind to bring buckets of water,” said Tyagi’s angry mother, Sudesh.
On Wednesday, an HT team visited the accident spot and found very few people who had witnessed the incident.
“It happened very quickly. No one had enough time to think or react. The car was gutted in less than 15 minutes. We did try to rescue the driver and tried to douse the flames with whatever w could lay our hands on,” said Kamal, a local shopkeeper.
Tyagi, the driver’s family said, had been driving cars for the last 15 years and lived with his wife, two children and an aged mother near Mandoli Main Market, barely 500 metres from the spot where he died.
The driver had bought the diesel car on monthly installments around two years ago and had been operating it for a call centre. On Tuesday, he had returned for work around 10.15pm. He wanted to go home and have a quick dinner before heading out for the call centre again.
Police quoted the eyewitnesses as saying that the blaze was “so sudden and strong” that they were unable to do much. “It was someone from the public that made the police call. So we can’t say the eyewitnesses did nothing,” said Devender Arya, additional DCP (northeast).