In a shocking incident on Wednesday morning, a driver hijacked an empty State transport bus in Pune and ruthlessly mowed down people and vehicles in his way.
Eight persons lost their lives, 29 were injured and over 25 vehicles, including cars, motorcycles, autos and a private bus were damaged. Santosh Mane, 35-year-old licensed driver with the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), who wreaked havoc on the roads for around 45 minutes from 8.15 a.m, was arrested.
Mane, who was allegedly in a disturbed state of mind, took custody of the Satara-bound bus (MH14BT1532) from the Swargate depot and “proceeded to knock down pedestrians and smash vehicles on the way. Marshals tried to stop him and fired at the bus. Finally one person, Sharif Ibrahim Kutty, intercepted him,” Police Commissioner Meera Borwankar told journalists.
The injured were admitted to hospital.
“At 8.15 a.m. the bus came out of the depot,” havildar Rajendra Vitthalrao Khopde from the police team which chased Mane told The Hindu on the phone. “The bus reached The Bishop's School and turned to Napier Road. Then on the east road it turned on the wrong side, facing traffic in the opposite direction. It crushed two motorcycles. We were warning people over the loudspeaker to clear the way, telling them that the driver was perhaps drunk and he was driving recklessly. We put up barricades at the old motor stand, but he went the other way. Then, under a bridge near the Nilayam theatre, his progress was impeded by two cars stationed there. The bus came to a halt.” Police naik Umesh Kate, who was on beat marshal duty, said a constable climbed the bus in a bid to stop Mane, but could not enter it. “The beat marshals behind us fired at the bus. The control told us to fire.”
Another police naik Ravindra Khandu said: “But he [Mane] had no intention of stopping. We were driving ahead trying to clear people from the road. I saw some people getting crushed by the bus. We made an announcement over the loudspeaker, told him to stop and even signalled to him, in vain. His speed dropped only when he ran into two cars.” By afternoon, the police registered an FIR against Mane. He has been booked under Sections 379 (punishment for theft), 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 324 and 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 427 (mischief, causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) of the Indian Penal Code, Assistant Commissioner Abhay Yeole told The Hindu. These are to be read with Sections 3 and 7 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
While the family said Mane was taking treatment for a mental condition, the police denied that he was “unstable.” The previous night Mane was on duty and drove a bus to Swargate.
“The police are not examining if he was unstable or not. How can he be unstable if he was driving the previous day? He had clearly taken the bus to kill people,” Mr. Yeole said.
The MSRTC announced a financial aid of Rs. 1 lakh each to the families of the victims. Those critically injured will get a compensation of Rs. 75,000 and the others, Rs. 50,000.
The deceased are: Ram Lalit Shukla, Ankush Tikone, Tinkesh Khandelwal, Shivangi More, Pooja Patil, Milind Gaikwad, Akshay Pise and Shweta Oswal.
Keywords: Pune bus accident