Five days after four advertising and marketing firm professionals mysteriously went missing while on their way to Karnataka, the police on Wednesday recovered body of one of them from Nira river on Pune-Banglore national highway.
The police team, which launched major search operations concentrating their efforts in and around national highway near Shirwal taluka, found body of Chintan Buch in the river.
Pranav Lele (29), partner at Pune based Paradigm Plus advertisement firm along with other employees including Buch (28) and Sahil Qureshi (28) left for Gokarna Mahabaleshwar in Karnataka late Friday evening in silver-coloured i20 car. The trio had embarked on a trip to Karnataka and Goa during Diwali holiday. They picked up their colleague Shrutika Chandawani (27) to drop her on their way at her hometown Kolhapur.
But after crossing Khed-Shivapur toll post near Pune, they could not be reached on their mobile phones. In the CCTV footage scanned by police, the professionals were seen paying toll at about 12:30am on November 2 and leaving towards Satara.
The mobile tower locations of these executives showed that their cell phones were on till 2:30am.
As the families reported them missing at local police station, a massive search operation was launched with two helicopters pressed in service by the ad firm. The local administration sought help from National Disaster and Relief Force officials.
“With the help from divers we have recovered a body of Chintan Buch from Nira river. Buch’s body was recovered almost two kilometers from the highway bridge. We are searching for other bodies and a car in which they were traveling in,” said Shrikant Navale, police inspector.
A senior police official said on the condition of anonymity that it appeared the professionals were drunk and the "driver may have lost control over steering, resulting in the mishap”.
He said the police recovered empty bottles of alcohol from the residence of one of their colleagues, where they had gathered prior to the journey.
"Prima facie, it looks to be a case of mishap. We are investigating it further to reach to any conclusion," said deputy commissioner of police Makarand Ranade.