It was a late night assignment that turned horribly wrong for 22-year-old Jitendra Kumar, a taxi driver charred to death in a head-on collision with a mini truck coming the wrong way on the DND expressway connecting the suburb of Noida to Delhi.
The impact of the collision late on Thursday was so intense that the Maruti Esteem Jitendra was driving caught fire instantaneously, apparently giving him no time to escape. Some parts of the car melted due to the heat.
The accident took place just 300 metres before the eight-lane expressway connects with the ring road.
Police said Jitendra, who had been a taxi driver for three years, was returning to Delhi from Noida after a late night drop when the Tata 407 travelling on the wrong side on the flyway hit him. The car immediately caught fire and the driver was burnt to death.
"The man was trapped inside the car and his body was completely burnt. It took the police almost 30 minutes to take it out," said traumatised journalist Nayanima Basu, an eyewitness to the grisly accident.
Although it was believed earlier that the car caught fire because it was powered by a CNG cylinder, police said this was not true.
"We believe the vehicle caught fire instantly after the collision, but we have not been able to identify the cause," said Anil Shukla, deputy commissioner of police who is heading the investigations.
"The car was running on CNG but there has been no damage to the cylinder. We have checked the cylinder, there was no problem with the cylinder," said Shukla. "It seems the cause of the fire was something else."
"We have decided to take help of experts to identify the cause. We normally do not seek help of experts, but we do so during such accidents because police does not have the expertise to find the cause," he added.
The Tata 407 driver, 25-year-old Veer Bahadur, a resident of Jhansi in Madhya Pradesh, has been arrested. Three whisky bottles were found in the mini truck. "Although the driver was not drunk, his two helpers were," Shukla said.
"The truck driver is new to Delhi and this was his first assignment. He had lost his way and by mistake went on the wrong side of the flyway. Bahadur was on his way to Noida."
The official said the two helpers should have been careful and warned Bahadur.
The nearly seven-kilometre DND expressway has seen several rash driving cases recently, some resulting in fatalities. There have been 10 accidents in the last year on the smooth, signal free road that people tend to zip on.