Saved by the skin of the teeth
Chief Fire Officer AV Sawant was saved in the nick of time because he quickly changed position of the ladder and came down before the terrorist could blink, reports Sujit Mahamulkar.india Updated: Nov 30, 2008 23:41 IST
Chief Fire Officer AV Sawant can never forget how he came face-to-face with a terrorist at Taj hotel on Friday. He was dangling on the aerial ladder platform, the ladder with a cage on the top, outside a window on the fifth storey during rescue operations when he saw the terrorist.
Sawant was saved in the nick of time because he quickly changed position of the ladder and came down before the terrorist could blink. Sawant’s story is similar to many of the 300 firemen, who were part of the rescue operation at the Taj, Trident and Nariman House along with the NSG, and police.
But Sawant got lucky twice. He was on duty at the Taj from Wednesday night to Saturday morning. On Thursday morning, he was discussing and planning further strategy with Joint Fire Officer PD Kargoppikar and Assistant Divisional Fire Officer P.S. Rahangdale at 7 am, when there was a lull in the firing.
“A terrorist threw a grenade towards us, it fell right between us and rolled under one of our vehicles. We were lucky because it was pinned properly and did not explode,’’ said Sawant, adding this was an incident he was unlikely to forget because it had given him a fresh lease of life.
Rahangdale recollected another chilling experience at the Trident. He and two other officers were on the ladder rescuing guests, when terrorists lobbed two grenades at them. “They were not aimed properly and exploded away from us. We were plain lucky.’’
The firefighters were among the many unsung heroes of the last three nights. They had started operations by Wednesday night before the NSG commandos got on the field.
At Taj, they controlled fire at least 40-45 times, said Sawant. “They (terrorists) wanted to set the entire hotel on fire. Our job was to control it. The jawans did me proud.”