Night time on the lethal Yamuna Expressway

The smartphone rings just as we are about to settle down for an interview with head constable Suresh Chandra at a rundown dhaba around 1 am on the . It’s the call of duty for the UP cop, part of the patrol for over a year. There’s been a pileup about 13 km away. “Major hai ya minor,” he asks. It’s a major one, it seems. Chandra asks for the location. It is — LHS, 88.
The cops work in tandem with the patrol units of , the group that built and manages the Expressway. The two have worked out their own code of communication. The Agra side, as they understand it, is LHS (left hand side) and the Noida side is RHS (right hand side). The numerical indicates milestone 88 from Delhi.

Chandra’s Dial 100 vehicle is a black Innova with dancing strobe lights. Eerily the spot is barely 50 yards from the site where three AIIMS doctors had died and five were badly injured in a crash last Sunday. The area’s been cordoned off with the ubiquitous orange cones by the Jaypee route patrol unit which had called up Chandra from the spot.

Three doctors from AIIMS, Delhi were killed and 4 others were seriously injured in an accident at Yamuna Expressway in Mathura‘s Thoror Surir Kotwali area on Sunday morning.

At the crash site, the scene is surreal. A mini-truck carrying frozen green peas is lying sideways. Dozens of sacks are on the road, peas strewn all over. Four other vehicles – an i20, a WagonR, an Ertiga and an EcoSport — have rammed either into the truck or into each other; at least two of them seriously damaged. A disoriented group of women and girls are sitting on the road. Some are crying; most are too dazed and confused to talk. One of them is lying on the ground, her head on somebody’s lap. There’s no blood but this is a shocked and battered lot.

Three of the four vehicles belonged to Delhi-based telecom businessman Rajwinder Singh Sengar. “My mother passed away at 8 in the evening in Jalaun,” he says. The entire family was rushing to pay their last respects. “It’s a miracle that there are no casualties in such a major . Perhaps it was your mother’s last blessing to your family,” a cop tells him. The airbags too had played their part. Only those in the rear seats were hurt.

The ambulance is on its way. The injured say that the Jaypee patrol was there in 20 minutes. We were there in 30. Ten minutes later, the ambulance arrives. The injured are moved to the medical van. One young girl howls as she struggles to stand. A stretcher is sought, but she is made to walk gingerly to the ambulance. They are going to a Mathura hospital which, we are told, would take another 15 minutes. “The injured are our priority. If a victim is critical, we drop them to hospital before the ambulance arrives,” says a Jaypee patrol officer later.

Shortly, a second vehicle filled with cops arrives on the scene. One of them makes detailed notes. Once the injured have left, the clearing of the debris begins. It is a risky job. One speeding truck, oblivious of the cordon, drives into the restricted area. Most cars and trucks passing by slow down for a peek at the wreckage. One onlooker, barely escapes, being hit by another speeding vehicle.

Quickly, the sacks filled with green peas are carried off the road and placed on the divider. Kilos of spilt green peas are shovelled aside. Jaypee’s quick response vehicle (QRV), equipped with a mini water tank, wire-cutters, a generator and much more, has lit the place.

The wire-cutters are used to disentangle the truck which had partially fallen on barbed wire. The truck is straightened and on the back you read the ironic line: “Driver phute tere karam, khana khate kabhi kabhi, sona agle janam (O luckless driver, you will only get to eat occasionally, and never get to sleep).” The cranes carry the vehicles off the road. Amidst all this, the EcoSport windshield wiper keeps moving. By 3 am, all lanes have reopened.

TOI photos by Anindya Chattopadhyay
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