WR panel interviews 30 eye-witnesses, blames heavy rains for Elphinstone stampede

WR panel interviews 30 eye-witnesses, blames heavy rains for Elphinstone stampede
The panel has recommended decongesting the staircase and adding a new one (Representational Image. Courtesy: independent.co.uk)

An official inquiry into the Elphinstone bridge tragedy of September 29, in which 23 people lost their lives in a stampede, has blamed heavy rainfall for the incident.

The probe, headed by Western Railway chief security officer, submitted its report to WR General Manager Anil Kumar on Wednesday after recording statements of 30 commuters who were injured. A video footage of the incident was also examined.

According to the report, the stampede was caused by heavy rains which forced people outside at the ticket counters to rush to the already crammed staircase for cover.

The constant flow of passengers arriving at the station only compounded the problem, and added to the panic and confusion.

The report said people with heavy luggage lost their balance because of which the stampede may have occurred, adding that none of the witnesses supported the claim of a short circuit on the bridge leading to the chaos.

The probe panel has recommended that passengers be prevented from carrying heavy luggage during peak hours. The movement of commuters, mainly vendors, carrying baskets stuffed with goods during peak hours should also be restricted.

Other recommendations by the panel include relocating the elevated booking office to widen the staircase, which is currently located adjacent to it. An additional staircase can also be provided, the panel has said.

It has suggested that officials use a quick mode of communication apart from mobile phones to ensure timely reaction and recommended providing wireless handsets to station and security staff.

The panel also gave a clean chit to railway officials. “No one can be held responsible for the incident,” said Ravinder Bhakar, chief public relations officer of the WR.

23 people were killed, and around 35 injured, in the rush hour stampede on a narrow overbridge linking Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban stations during heavy rain on September 29.

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