Four persons, including three of a family, were killed and three others were injured when a chemical-laden tanker caught fire following an accident and exploded on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway near Khandala exit on Tuesday, police officials said.
According to the state highway police, the accident took place on the stretch between Lonavla and Khandala as a tanker carrying methanol was heading towards Mumbai from Pune and lost control on Kunegaon Bridge and collided with a divider. The tanker caught fire following the accident and exploded causing fiery balls of the chemical to fall on the motorists travelling on the road under the bridge.
As per the Pune rural police officials, there were three persons in the tanker, of which one died and two others are injured, including the driver, who is reported to be critical. One of the injured has been identified as Chandrakant Gurav. The identity of the driver is yet to be ascertained. They have been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) at Pavana Hospital in Talegaon Dabhade.
The deceased have been identified as Savita Kailas Vare (35), Kushal Kailas Vare (9) and Ritesh Mahadu Koshire (17) of Maval tehsil. Police are yet to identify the tanker occupant who died in the accident.
According to the police, Savita along with her son Kushal and nephew Ritesh was on their way home from Lonavla when the incident occurred. They were passing under the Kunegaon Bridge when fiery balls of the chemical fell on them.
Satya Sai Karthik, deputy superintendent of police, Lonavla sub-division, said, “Four persons have been killed while three are severely injured. We pressed all emergencies at the site to get situation under control and vehicle movement was also stopped to check any untoward incident.”
According to officials, four vehicles were gutted, including the tanker. Due to the fire, traffic was disrupted for more than three hours. The affected section of the expressway was temporarily closed to facilitate emergency response operations and initiate investigative procedures.
Lata Phad, highway traffic police (HSP) Pune incharge, said, “Major fire engulfed in a tanker carrying chemical in which one of its occupants was killed and two others, including the driver and the cleaner were injured. Another woman travelling on the road under the bridge where the accident took place was also injured.”
Local fire brigade officials were promptly notified of the incident and a swift response was initiated. Firefighters and medical personnel rushed to the scene to extinguish flames and provide medical assistance to those affected.
Efforts were made to rescue the individuals who sustained severe injuries and shifted to Pavana hospital in Somatane Phata.
Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed grief over the deaths. Fadnavis, who also holds the home portfolio, called the accident “unfortunate”. “Three other persons were injured in the accident and are being treated in a local hospital. I pray for their betterment,” he said on social media.
The Pune-Mumbai Expressway, a critical transportation artery connecting two major cities, plays a vital role in facilitating commerce and commuting for thousands of individuals daily. The incident raises concerns about the safety standards and protocols in place to ensure the secure transit of hazardous materials.