A 19-year-old, Shilpa Vishwakarma, student & one of the survivors of the Elphinstone Road station stampede, told the railway inquiry panel that a flower vendor’s cry of “phool gir gaya [flowers have fallen]” being mistaken as “pul gir gaya [the bridge has fallen]” might have set off the panic.
On September 29, a massive crowd of morning rush hour commuters stampeded on the stairwell of a narrow foot overbridge (FOB) at the station, leaving 23 dead and more than 30 injured.
“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,” a senior Western Railway official said on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old woman, who was going to Vile Parle for her coaching classes, got stuck on the staircase. She survived as she was immediately pulled out by a man in the crowd in stampede with some injuries, was admitted to the KEM hospital in Parel and later discharged, he said.
He however died, Vishwakarma said. Vishwakarma herself suffered injuries to her hands, legs, back and stomach. She was rushed by locals to KEM Hospital but was discharged the same evening.
Vendors selling flowers and other products on the bridge is a common sight.
The three-member probe panel headed by Western Railway’s chief security officer began its inquiry into the stampede on Monday. Vishwakarma was the only survivor to appear before it on the first day. Railway staffers deputed at Elphinstone Road gave their statements, and an ordinary Mumbaikar too had turned up to offer his suggestions.
Describing the scene on the bridge just before tragedy struck, Vishwakarma said,
“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 are yet to reach any conclusion though, as more witness statements are to be recorded. They also are studying videos shot by passengers.
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