An old habit taxi drivers in the city find difficult to kill, jumping signals, saved hundreds of lives on the Western Express Highway on Wednesday.
Around 10 pm on that day a bomb in a taxi turned the car into a fireball, but only after the driver had begun moving at a red light a few seconds before it would have turned green, a traffic constable said on Thursday.
Posted at the signal immediately after the under-construction airport flyover in Vile Parle, the traffic policeman saw the blast that was part of the string of terror strikes in the city just yards from where it happened.
“Had the explosion occurred in the stationary taxi, hundreds would have been killed,” said the constable, who did not wish to be named while the operations against terrorists holed up in other place were still on.
The intensity of the blast can be gauged from the fact that the taxi was twisted into a mangled heap of metal and the driver, identified as Mohammad Umer, had his head blown off at least 100 metres away from the spot.
Umer had halted the vehicle near the signal when it was red.
“The road was choc-a-bloc with vehicles,” the constable said. “Hundreds of pedestrians were crossing the road as the walker signal was on. Seconds before the signal turned green, the taxi driver accelerated the vehicle. Then the bomb went off, but the trailing vehicles were at least 15-20 metres behind. This is why there were no casualties, other than the taxi driver and the passenger inside.”
The blast shattered the windshields of several vehicles coming from the opposite direction and created a deep crater in the multi-layer, steel-strengthened asphalt road.