The decision of Vijaykumar Pandey, 27, the driver of the tanker carrying 18 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) that turned turtle in Mankhurd at 1.30am on Monday, to return to the accident site proved fatal for him.
Eyewitnesses said Pandey was rescued from the mangled tanker and moved to a safer location. After about 15 minutes, he went back to the accident site to retrieve his belongings, including a mobile phone, when the tanker caught fire and an explosion occurred as the leaking gas came in contact with electrical sparks in the driver’s cabin.
Pandey was rushed to Rajawadi hospital in Ghatkopar (East), where he was declared dead on arrival. “Along with a few others, I rescued him as he was trapped in the tanker.
"However, he went back to the spot after a few minutes, when there was a sudden explosion. The driver was flung in the air,” said Sagar Ambavale, 24, who had come to the Agarwadi area in Mankhurd to fill his water tanker.
The Govandi police said there were shanties near the ditch where the tanker fell. As they caught fire, labourers sleeping in them were also injured.
Mohammed Ansari, 27, an eyewitness, said, “The gas started leaking, and after a while it caught fire. The fire was major and engulfed the shanties and nearby trees. People who were asleep started running helter-skelter as there was a massive explosion and thick smoke billowed into the air.”
Doctors said 16 persons have been admitted to Sion hospital with burns varying from 5% to 100%, while one person is receiving treatment at Rajawadi.
Four of the seven critically injured are from the Shaikh family: Mumtaz and her husband Nijamuddin suffered 100% burns, while their children, Mohamad Abarar and Nasimunisa Shaikh, sustained 90% burns.
Owing to the extent of the burns, their chances of survival are slim, said the doctor treating them.