Couple found dead in car crushed by illegal billboard after 56 hours

Mumbai: Death toll in the illegal billboard collapse incident has increased to 16 now. The rescue teams working at the accident spot pulled out two more bodies after nearly 56 hours of operation past midnight between Wednesday and Thursday. The two bodies were pulled out from a vehicle that was crushed under the huge billboard. The couple had stopped at the petrol pump to refuel their car when the tragedy struck.

The victims have been identified as 60-year-old Manoj Chansoria, a retired general manager of Air Traffic Control (ATC), and his 59-year-old wife Anita. The couple’s whereabouts were not known since Monday evening when they left for Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh from the ATC guest house in Mumbai in their car.

On Tuesday night, Manoj’s mobile location was tracked to the petrol pump on which a giant hoarding of 120 feet x 120 feet collapsed in the Chheda Nagar area at around 4.30pm on Monday. The billboard, located near the Eastern Express Highway (EEH) collapsed on a petrol pump. The structure damaged the scaffolding of the petrol pump along with several vehicles that were parked at the pump or passing by.

It is learnt that Manoj and Anita had stopped at the petrol pump to refuel when the tragedy struck. After learning that Manoj’s last mobile location was at the Chheda Nagar petrol pump, their family members and friends had been camping at the site.

Their bodies were found in a decomposed state and were taken to the nearby civic-run Rajawadi Hospital around 1 am. An NDRF official informed that the rescue teams had spotted the car and bodies earlier, but they could not pull out the bodies immediately. “Our people tried to reach the car by crawling, but it was not possible to remove the bodies unless the girder was moved,” he said.

The rescue teams had pulled out 14 bodies and74 injured people by Tuesday afternoon. However, the pace of the operation was slow because the rescuers could not use cutting equipment at the fuel station. They tried using a hydraulic crane but it was not successful. Therefore the entire operation was carried out manually. It was called off after 66 hours on Thursday morning, the NDRF official said.

A Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation official informed that the billboard was nine times bigger than the maximum permitted size and the government railway police was instructed to remove it last week itself. BMC Commissioner Bhushan Gagrani said the civic body has initiated action on a “war footing” to remove illegal hoardings in the city.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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