Keeping his cool even as the bus was on fire, Shrikant Athawale, 39, broke open the glass panes of the AC bus with his laptop and luggage, saving himself and 10 passengers.
The Pune engineer, a resident of Chinchwad’s Shahu Nagar area, sustained severe back injuries. Athawale boarded the bus from Mumbai-Bangalore Highway and was going to Vadodara when the bus caught fire after ramming into the petroleum tanker. Athawale lodged a police case alleging negligence on the part of the petroleum container driver.
“As soon as the bus neared Kude village, the driver while overtaking a heavy vehicle rammed into the container on the left side. Soon smoke and fire erupted from the engine and within three minutes the bus was in flames,” said Athawale.
He soon realised there was no other escape route as the bus was an AC sleeper. “The smoke started suffocating the passengers because there was no ventilation. The passengers on the upper berth fell on the passengers beneath and they couldn’t move,” he said.
Athawale rushed to the rear of the bus looking for an emergency window. “I smashed it open with my luggage. After jumping out of the bus, I helped people out. If I would have taken a minute or two more, I would have lost consciousness because of the smoke. God has given me a second life.”
Passengers recounted the Pune engineer’s efforts to save them.
“It was only because of him we survived. We would have been charred to death because the main door was jammed with the impact of the collision and the emergency window was tough to break,” said Mohammed Khan, a passenger.