Eight schoolkids were rescued by local people moments before the Omni van in which they were travelling caught fire near Shivaji Chowk in Vile Parle (East) on Thursday morning.
Around 8am, when the van was ferrying the kids, aged between three and five, to Nanavati School in Vile Parle (West), it developed some ignition problem. “Some morning walkers saw smoke billowing out of the vehicle. They alerted the driver and brought the kids out just in the nick of time.
All the kids are safe,” R Deshmukh, assistant inspector of Vile Parle police station, said.
The police have arrested driver Bharat Solanki, 48, and booked him under various sections of the IPC and the Motor Vehicles Act. The van, a private vehicle, is not attached to the school in anyway and does not even have a permit. “The driver drives a school bus too. He uses the van to drop kids. We are investigating the matter,” Deshmukh said.
Nitin Dhischolkar who was one of those who rescued the kids said: “I realised that the front of the van had caught fire and there were a few children inside. This is when I and a few others began to pull the children out.” The eight children were then sent to school in autorickshaws.
School bus owners alleged that they get victimised if their vehicles are involved in such accidents while illegal operators are not penalised. “Since the operator is illegal, nobody knows who is responsible for childrens’ safety. The government does not take any action against such people,” Anil Garg, president of the school bus owners’ association, said.
Malvikaben Vora, principal of Nanavati School, refused to comment.