What was a usual Dussehra celebration journey to Yavatmal and getting back to the daily rigmarole turned out to be the most emotionally traumatic journey for some of the survivors of the horrific accident in Nashik that led to several passengers and bus staff getting charred to death.
For 29-year-old Lakhan Rathod and his nine-year-old nephew, the trauma is likely to be etched lifelong. It can probably only be neutralised to an extent with counselling sessions.
Mr Rathod and his nephew were in Yavatmal to meet their family and celebrate Dussehra and see the effigy of Ravan being charred to ashes. A day after the festival, they also happened to witness helpless humans getting caught in flames as they were returning to Borivali, where Mr Yadav works as a mechanic.
They could also have been part of the tragedy had it not been for some split-second decisions by Mr Yadav with the help of locals and passers-by.
“We were asleep in one of the seats in the rear of the bus,” the mechanic recalled. “The impact and jerk of the collision with the tanker not only ignited the fire, but also woke us up.”
Seeing the flames spreading fast along with the inflammable liquid, there were only seconds for them to act in an attempt to save their skins. “We saw people sitting in the front of the bus, including the driver, getting caught in huge flames. We were in a panic and trying to escape by whatever route possible,” Mr Yadav said, explaining the passengers’ plight.
Thankfully, there were a few locals close to the accident spot who rushed in to rescue as many as possible. Those outside the bus started breaking the windows to make room for people to escape the rapidly spreading flames.
“I first pushed my nephew out of the window and then jumped on to the road,” Mr Yadav continued. “It was about saving our lives without a second thought. We sustained injuries to our neck and legs, but we are alive.” The mechanic was grateful to the good Samaritans, for their timely assistance helped them escape with minor injuries, else they too would have been engulfed in the ball of fire.
Within seconds of them exiting the bus, the fire spread to the very seats they had been on. They wanted to join others in saving lives, but it was too late and all they could hear were unbearable, hair-raising screams of those trapped inside.
In a while, help arrived and they were transferred along with the other injured to a civic-run hospital in Nashik.
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