56-year-old tempo driver drowns in waterlogged Minto Road underpass
A 56-year-old man drowned in the waterlogged Minto Road underpass near Connaught Place on Sunday morning and 10 others stranded on submerged roads and underpasses were rescued by different agencies across the Capital as the city received its first heavy spell of monsoon showers this year.
Firefighters rescued three people from the Minto Road underpass where, they said, water was at least 8 feet deep. Besides the tempo which the victim, Kundan Singh Mehra, was driving, a DTC bus and two auto-rickshaws had also submerged. But fire officials said they never got to know that a man had drowned there.
Mehra sat on his submerged mini truck for several minutes before his death, showed a small video clip which was authenticated by his family. However, it doesn’t show him falling into the water.
“There were motorists on both sides of the underpass and some of them even recorded Mehra sitting on top of the vehicle. But no one tried to rescue him or even alert the authorities,” said Mehra’s cousin, Pritam Singh.
Mehra belonged to Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand, where his wife and two children live. He lived in the parking lot of Shankar Market in Connaught Place.
Mehra took up odd transportation jobs, mostly from New Delhi railway station to other parts of the city. “For the past few weeks, he had been hired temporarily by a contractor who provides food to CRPF personnel deployed in the city,” said Singh who lives in Ghaziabad. Singh owns the tempo that Mehra drove.
Rajender Dubey, assistant commissioner of police (Barakhamba Road), said the initial probe revealed that Mehra had started from New Delhi railway station towards Connaught Place when he got stranded in the water collected under the Minto Road rail bridge. “He tried to manoeuvre his vehicle through the water, but couldn’t make it,” he said.
Mehra’s cousin said he received a call from an employee of a public toilet near the underpass around 8am, informing him that his brother was trapped in the water and was sitting atop the tempo. “The man who called me had worked for me in the past, so he knew Mehra,” said Singh.
By the time Singh could send some drivers from the nearby taxi stand to help Mehra, the stranded man couldn’t be spotted anymore.
The fire department, meanwhile, had received a call for help around the same time. “We were informed that some people were trapped after a bus and two auto-rickshaws were stranded in the underpass. We rescued the bus driver and conductor and an auto driver, but no one told us that a fourth man was also stuck in the water,” said Atul Garg, director of Delhi Fire Services.
It took the firefighters about 90 minutes to carry out the rescue operation as they had to use ladders to save the stranded men.
Mehra’s body was finally spotted by a lineman working at the yard of the New Delhi railway station nearby. “He swam in the water and retrieved Mehra body. Mehra’s tempo was found near the stranded DTC bus,” said ACP Dubey.
Mehra’s cousin, Singh, said that he has been seeing the underpass get flooded every monsoon for the last 32 years he has been in the city. “We have reached the moon, but aren’t able to solve the problem of an underpass. I hope my cousin’s death will not be wasted and the government can find a permanent solution to this problem,” said Singh.
Police said there were no external injuries on Mehra’s body and while they await the autopsy report, they have initiated inquest proceedings into his death.