After sudden rain, water at the K.R. Circle underpass, where 23-year-old Bhanurekha drowned after being stuck inside a car on Sunday, was about eight-feet deep and the driver could not judge the depth.
“We were travelling back from Cubbon Park. It was raining and when we approached the underpass, I noticed one autorickshaw and one car were heading under it. Yet another auto stopped midway and asked me to go ahead. When I did, within two minutes, the car started floating and water gushed in from both sides and the engine died,” narrated Harisha, the driver of the cab in which Ms. Bhanurekha and her family were travelling.
It was later learnt from the Fire and Emergency Services and the police officials that while Mr. Harisha and other passengers could get out after opening one door, Ms. Bhanurekha could not come out as she was sitting in the rear. For her to get out, the middle seat had to be folded, and by the time they could pull her out, it was too late.
While the traffic police maintained that there were barricades blocking entry to the underpass and that an auto driver removed it to enter, eyewitnesses reported that they could not see any at the spot.
“I was on my bike near the underpass and heard people screaming. I went to check what happened and saw the car floating. I and a few other people immediately jumped into the water and tried to pull the victims out, but we could not,” described Prabhakar Reddy, an interior design company employee, who was at the spot.
“I saw the driver sitting on the bonnet and shouting for help,” said Manjunath Chandra, a private firm employee, who was also at the spot. “I could not help them much as I cannot swim. But a woman threw the end of her sari and asked them to grab it and climb out, but they could not. A quick response team was passing by, and I asked them to help. Five of them and a traffic constable jumped into the water to save them. Later, some of us also formed a human chain and helped rescue those who were stuck,” he further said.
He said that it took nine minutes for the Fire and Emergency Services vehicle to reach the spot. Both eyewitnesses said that St. Marthas’s Hospital did not take Ms. Bhanurekha in for five minutes. The hospital, however, has denied this claim.
“Ms. Bhanurekha was taken in an autorickshaw and other unconscious victims in media vehicles to the hospital. When I reached there, Ms. Bhanurekha was still not taken inside. When the Chief Minister came, I told him the same thing and he assured that he will verify the CCTV camera footage,” said Mr. Reddy.
14 fire personnel involved in rescue
Officials in the Fire and Emergency Services said that eight members rushed to the spot immediately for the rescue operation.
“Five people were on top and two [including Ms. Bhanurekha] were inside the car. While ladders were used to bring the five people out, life jackets and lifeboats were used for the other two. Although the doors were jammed in the beginning, they cracked open later and that is how five of them came out,” an official told The Hindu.
When asked why it took the team nine minutes to reach the spot, he said that it was due to the traffic snarls at K.R. Circle owing to the rain.