The RCF police recorded the statement of a key witness in the Janhavi Gadkar drink driving case on Saturday. Taxi driver Altaf Shaikh (name changed to protect his identify) told the police he saw Gadkar, a high court advocate, driving at speed down the wrong side of the Eastern Freeway in the early hours of Tuesday, and also saw her Audi Q3 crash into an oncoming taxi.
Around 1 am on Tuesday, 35-year-old Gadkar – who was drunk and driving down the wrong side of the freeway – crashed her Audi into a taxi carrying five people, killing the driver and front-seat passenger and injuring four others in the backseat.
Shaikh, who was on his way back home to Govandi with his family after an outing in south Mumbai on Monday night, appeared before the police on Saturday.
While most passing motorists and bystanders had refused to help the victims, Shaikh was among the few who did. Noman Sabuwala, 16, whose father Salim was killed in the crash, said, “[Shaikh] helped us pull my father out of the mangled taxi. He and his family helped us stop another passing taxi, which took my parents and sisters to hospital.” While Salim succumbed to his injuries at Sion hospital, taxi driver Mohamed Sayyed, 57, died on the spot. His body had to be extricated from the crushed taxi by firemen.
On Saturday, the police escorted Shaikh back to the accident site to get a better understanding of what happened that night. Police sources said Shaikh agreed to record his statement before a magistrate, under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which will strengthen the police’s case against Gadkar.
After the police recorded his statement, Shaikh told Hindustan Times that Gadkar was driving at very high speed and that she narrowly missed several vehicles, including a tempo, before crashing into the taxi.
“She was initially in the correct lane but took a wrong turn and ended up in the wrong lane. She drove for around two to three kilometres before crashing into the taxi,” he said.
The impact of the crash was so severe that the entire front of the taxi was crushed, killing its 57-year-old driver, Mohamed Sayyed. Also in the taxi were Salim Sabuwala, a 50-year-old businessman, his wife Hafeeza, daughters Sadiya and Salma, and son Noman. The family had gone to a hotel in Bhiwandi to celebrate Noman’s SSC results, which had been announced on Monday, and were returning to their home in Null Bazaar when the Audi crashed into them.
Gadkar, who is vice-president (legal) with Reliance Industries Limited, was returning to her home in Chembur after dinner and drinks at a south Mumbai hotel and a Kala Ghoda pub, according to the police.