A 19-year-old survivor of the Elphinstone Road stampede has claimed that a flower vendor's cry of 'phool gir gaya' (flowers have fallen) mistaken as 'pul gir gaya' ( the bridge has collapsed) might have set off panic among commuters, thus leading to the incident. Twenty-three people were killed and over 50 were injured in the incident that took place on 29 September.
Shilpa Vishwakarma, an Elphinstone Road resident told the Railway Protection Force (RPF) panel that she was trying to go up the stairs when the crowd on the foot overbridge rapidly swelled leading to chaos and panic among the commuters.
The Western Railway's chief spokesperson Ravindra Bhakar confirmed recording Vishwakarma's statement. PTI quoted Bhakar as saying, "A woman injured in the stampede told the inquiry panel that a flower vendor uttered the words 'phool gir gaya', which others mistook for 'pul gir gaya'. She told the inquiry panel that this set off panic among the crowd of people on the stair and they started running, trampling one another."
Vishwakarma, who survived the stampede with some injuries was quoted in a The Times Of India report as saying, "While I was caught in the middle of the staircase, there was pressure from the top (from the bridge) as well as from below (the exit) as many commuters did not want to get out of the station because of the rain. Many women were decked in traditional attire for Navaratri and were reluctant to get wet."
Police investigate two major factors that lead to stampede:
According to The Indian Express report, Mumbai Police and railway officials probing the case have ascertained two major factors that could have possibly lead to the stampede following the chaos on the foot-over bridge: first, the rains that compelled commuters to stay put on the foot overbridge, and second, the constant crowd of commuters alighting from the trains adding to the crowd.
The report further added that the Dadar Police Station where the Accidental Death Register (ADR) was recorded has studied footage from two CCTV, however, none of them captured the actual stampede. The footage (10.26 am) shows few people trying to record something on their mobile phones.
The entire episode lasted for nine minutes — between 10.26 am and 10.35 am that claimed lives of 23 and injured over 50 people.
The report also added that the GRP officials failed to reach the spot due to over-crowding while the RPF official had no information on the stampede. Since the incident occurred within the span of fewer than ten minutes, officials failed to surpass the crowd and reach out to help the commuters. According to the investigation, so far no evidence has been gathered or indicate dereliction of duty on part of railway officials.
Too early to arrive at a conclusion, says Western Railway
The Western Railway, however, has reserved an official statement on what led to the stampede on 29 September till it completes its investigation is complete. "It was too early to conclude that this was the sole reason for the tragedy. We will try to get detailed accounts of other injured passengers, locals who rescued them, and witnesses as a part of our in-depth inquiry," Bhakar told PTI.
He also said the panel will ascertain if the stampede occurred after some rumours were spread.
Some other survivors had claimed that a short circuit led to a panic among the people crammed on the narrow bridge which resulted in the stampede.
A senior Western Railway official earlier said they have already put out advertisements appealing to people to come forward to share information on the stampede.
The statements of two seriously injured passengers were recorded on Tuesday, he said.
If other injured passengers find it difficult to visit the office set up by the railways for the purpose, teams would visit them to record their statements, he had said.
The railway administration on Tuesday launched a "multidisciplinary" audit of all suburban train stations in and around Mumbai; while the Central Railway has formed eight teams for the task, the Western Railway has set up five. They have roped in representatives of five municipal corporations, including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
The audit, which was announced by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal the day the tragedy struck the metropolis, will cover more than 110 suburban stations.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Oct 04, 2017 18:32 PM