Sudden narrowing of lanes, no signboards: Palghar cops flag warning signals to NHAI

IN ITS preliminary investigation report on the September 4 accident that killed Cyrus Mistry, former Chairman, Tata Sons, and Jehangir Pandole, Director, Global Strategy Group, in KPMG’s London office, the Kasa Police Station, Palghar district, has pointed out several lacunae in the National Highway 48 stretch such as sudden conversion of three lanes into two lanes, absence of signboards to alert drivers, and lack of yellow blinkers on the road dividers and the bridge.

A letter dated September 6 to National Highway Authority of India’s Director in Bharuch, Gujarat, from the Kasa Police Station Deputy Superintendent of Police Prashant Pardeshi, who is also the Investigating Officer of the accident, said: “At the place of accident on the Surya River Bridge, the highway going towards Mumbai from Gujarat suddenly converted into two lanes. There are three lanes before the bridge starts. The sudden conversion of two lanes from three lanes without any sign board leads to mistakes by the drivers driving from Gujarat to Mumbai.”

A copy of the letter obtained by The Indian Express following an application to the Superintendent of Police, Palghar, under the Right to Information Act, said: “It is very necessary to install a signboard of lanes being converted into two lanes from three lanes. A lane drop signboard needs to be installed. A road diversion sign board is necessary before 500 m of bridge.”

The letter to NHAI sent following the Kasa Police Station’s investigation listed out a series of suggestions including widening the two-lane highway stretch to three-lane, placing yellow/ black colouring strips on the road divider and regulating the speed of vehicle at around 60 kmph with a speed signboard placed before the Charoti bridge. “It is also necessary to minimise the road diversion curve sharpness as far as feasible,” it said.

The accident site comes under the jurisdiction of the Kasa Police Station in Palghar district. Both Mistry and Jehangir Pandole were seated at the back of the Mercedes car when it veered out of control, hit a road divider, and smashed into a wall on Charoti bridge over Surya river around 3.15 pm on September 4. Leading gynaecologist in Mumbai Dr Anahita Pandole, who was driving the car, and Darius Pandole (brother of Jehangir), seated next to her, suffered serious injuries in the accident, and are recovering now.

Among the other lacunae, Pardeshi pointed out that the divider has no reflective yellow/ black colour strips to alert the drivers about the divider and the bridge. “Since the three-lane highway gets merged into two lanes, the speed of the vehicle leads to accidents,” he wrote in his letter.

When asked about the letter sent by the Kasa Police Station, Suraj Singh, Project Director of NH 48, NHAI said: “We have received the letter from Kasa police and sent it to our engineering authority. They will examine it. Whatever needs to be done, will be done as a part of short-term and long-term measures.”

Sources in Palghar police had earlier said that carmaker Mercedes had undertaken an investigation and found that the car was running at 89 km per hour at time of impact and that the driver had applied brakes five seconds ahead of the impact.

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