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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

#raigadtragedy: How a 5-ft flex held flicker of hope for 30 families

With each name of a deceased called out and written on the flex the cries of anguish grew louder...

pune Updated: Jul 30, 2018 14:50 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
Family members mourn the death of a relative in the Raigad accident, where a mini-bus carrying school employees on a field trip, skid and fell into a gorge 800-ft deep. Of the 31 passengers on the bus, 30 died.
Family members mourn the death of a relative in the Raigad accident, where a mini-bus carrying school employees on a field trip, skid and fell into a gorge 800-ft deep. Of the 31 passengers on the bus, 30 died.(pPratham Gokhale/HT)

As the piece of cloth with the names of the victims of the fateful incident was being prepared, the father of Jayant Chougule, one of the victims, let out a huge cry as his son was the last body to leave the hospital. The mothers and a few other female relatives of the deceased persons also gathered at the Raigad district rural government hospital in grief.

By the end of the operation to retrieve the bodies on Sunday noon the death toll was reported to be 30, unless someone is reported missing. After the 30 bodies were sent for post-mortem and later handed over to the families, a list of the deceased persons was made and displayed on a 5-foot flex-like piece of cloth. The life-sized list was displayed at the entrance of the rural hospital.

Meanwhile, the national disaster rescue force (NDRF) continued the operation for a few more hours as the bus the staff was travelling in was the last to be recovered from the spot - over 800 feet straight down the ghat road.

Family members of the deceased cried in grief every time an ambulance carrying a deceased from the Poladpur accident spot reached the government hospital. The cries continued till 12 noon on Sunday as the thirtieth, and last, body was brought in for post-mortem.

Later, the police informed the relatives of the victims gathered at the hospital to check if any of the accident victims was missing. Police inspectors and officials in-charge from various police stations in Mahad division were deployed at the rural government hospital to help hand over the 30 bodies retrieved to the respective families.

Entire department wiped out

Besides the irreplaceable loss to the kin of the deceased persons, the tragedy has posed a major challenge before Dr Balasaheb Sawant Krishi Vidyapeeth as one of its entire department has been wiped out in the accident.

The youngest from the list of deceased was recently married, while the oldest had served at the government-run university for over 25 years. They were all ministerial staff working for the office of Dr Tapas Bhattacharya, vice-chancellor (VC) of Dr Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli.

“Vinayak Ramesh Sawant, 28, was married some six months ago. He was one among the clerical staff and this was his first trip. Nilesh Tambe, 32, who was a senior clerk had also gotten married only recently. So had Ritesh and Pramod,” said KJ Chaudhury, registrar of the institute, as he wistfully went through the list.

One among the deceased was Suyesh Vinayak Bal, 57, who was the office superintendent and had served as the head of the general branch of the VC’s office. He is survived by a housewife, two sons and his father. While his father has a small business, Bal provided for all of them. His elder son had recently landed his first job and moved to Nashik, according to Bal’s colleague.

“There are so many people who are so hard to replace. Hemant Surve, for example, was an excellent and the only person who knew how to handle e-tenders. He was a university engineer,” Chaudhury said. “Pramod Shigwan was an expert in reservation-related issues. Government resolutions are very difficult to handle as they can get us in legal trouble. Shigwan was excellent at it and had 10 years of experience at the university at such a young age. He was made permanent only four years ago. He worked as a temporary employee for almost six years,” Chaudhury recalled.

When asked what the university planned to do about the vacancies, the registrar said, “Since it is a government-run university, the gaps will be filled as per the government’s directions.”

Condolence meet

The college staff said that Devendra Fadnavis, chief minister of Maharashtra, had announced compensation of Rs 4 lakh for the next of kin of all the deceased. The university will be holding a condolence meeting, chaired by the VC, on Monday at 11 am at their Dapoli campus.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 14:49 IST

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