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4 dead after 40-ft billboard frame collapses on vehicles in Pune

The billboard, installed on land belonging to the Pune railway department, was being removed when the incident happened.

  The frame of a billboard 40-foot in height collapsed onto the Shahir Amar Shaikh chowk on Friday afternoon at Junna Bazaar, killing four persons and seriously injuring five.

The frame, installed on land belonging to the Pune railway department, was being removed when the incident happened.

Ten vehicles, including at least six autorickshaws, a car and three two-wheelers were crushed, as the frame fell onto vehicles that had stopped at a red light at the chowk.

All the four people who died were in two rickshaws which bore the direct impact of the frame falling. The steel girders of the frame crushed the rickshaws in question.

The deceased have been identified as Shamrao Gagandhar Kasar (70), a resident of Pimpalegurav; Shyam Rajaram Dhotre (45) of Dehu road; Javed Misbauddin Khan (49); and Shivaji Devdas Pardesi (40) of Nana peth.

Three of the injured have been named as Kiran Somnath Thosar (22) of Hadapsar; Yashwant Rama Khobre of Kothrud; Mahesh Auchekar of Nana peth; and Rukmini Pardeshi of Nana peth. The names of at least three other injured persons have not yet been ascertained, investigators said.

Following the mishap, traffic chaos ensued in the area, blocking roads leading to the RTO and Pune railway station.

According to railway officials, who asked to remain anonymous, the hoarding was being removed by a private contractor since the contract for the same had ended.

An official Railways statement said: “The agency which was awarded the work of removing the hoarding is completely responsible for the unfortunate incident. We will conduct a high level inquiry about the entire incident.”

The Pune Railways department has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh per victim. The department will also give Rs 1 lakh to those critically injured and Rs 50, 000 to those injured, but not serious.

A team from the Bund Garden police station and fire brigade personnel rushed to the spot to clear the debris and control traffic.

Tushar Shinde, an eye-witness to the incident said, “I was standing at the adjacent traffic signal and was on my way to the Pune railway station when the hoarding fell down on the vehicles. While people behind the vehicles hit started running, a few were badly wounded. Some inside the rickshaws that were hit by the billboard could not get out.”

He added, “Commuters at the chowk, along with a few other autorickshaw drivers, began moving victims to Sassoon hospital even before the police got there.”

A senior railway official, requesting anonymity, told HT, “Railways had awarded the contract of putting up a billboard on the location 10 years ago. As the contract was over, the process of removing the hoarding from the site was in progress when the unfortunate incident happened.”

K Mujawar, senior police inspector, Bund Garden police station, said, “As we reached the spot, people were gathered around the vehicles hit by the collapse of the billboard. Before it could led to a chaotic situation, we moved people out from the location of the accident. A small team of traffic police was deployed at the signals of all near-by chowks to manage traffic.”

The FIR has been lodged by Shashikant Kamble against the responsible persons under section 268,288,290,304,336,337,338,427 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 at Bund Garden police station.

Blame game begins

A case has been registered against contractor Mallikarjun Malkapure, sub-contractor Jeevan Mandre and an unidentified worker.

Captions Outdoor Advertising (COA), the company that had been allotted the tender of commercial publicity for the sole advertisement rights for Zone C, Junna Bazaar chowk by the Railways for a period of seven years have held the Railway authorities as responsible for the mishap. The firm has also filed an application before the district judge in Pune against the Railway authorities.

COA in a statement said, “It is learned that today (October 5) also the Railways / its structure removing agency was working on the site to remove the remaining structure and the part of the structure fell down while they were working. It is also learned that the Railways had removed part of the compound wall in order to make a concrete wall and this may also have weakened its foundation.”



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