One moment, the two sisters were climbing down the stairs of their south Calcutta home, to join their mother for dinner on the floor below. The next, they were fighting for their lives, having been electrocuted by the iron spiral staircase. Hours later, they were dead.
Rinki Upadhyay, 17, and Anita Tewari, 22, fell victims to a freak accident around Saturday midnight, after the iron spiral staircase in their Brahmapur Road house “became charged with electricity”, said officers of Regent Park police station.
Rinki, a Class XI student, and elder sister Anita, mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old son, were both asleep in a first-floor bedroom, at around 11.30 pm, when their mother, Mahima, called them down for dinner.
Power lines from the first floor run along the staircase, right up to the bathroom on the ground floor. Police suspect that moistened electric wires from the bathroom might have come into contact with the iron staircase, “causing it to be charged with electricity”.
As Rinki, the first to answer her mother’s call for dinner, started climbing down the stairs, mother Mahima and sister Anita heard a loud shriek, followed by a thud. Anita rushed out of the bedroom, to find Rinki sitting still on the staircase. As she stepped forward to reach her younger sister, Anita herself was electrocuted.
Hearing two successive shrieks followed by a deathly silence, mother Mahima ran to the staircase. Realising that something terrible had happened, she started crying for help.
The girls’ father, Raj Kumar Upadhyay, was in Tarakeswar, while brother Sanjay, who had been out on some work, returned minutes after the mishap. Realising that his sisters had been electrocuted on the staircase, he quickly switched off the main power line.
“All four of us could have died,” Sanjay later said. His sisters, who were taken to MR Bangur Hospital, could not be saved. “The doctors did not attend to them properly… They could have been saved,” he alleged.
Anita, who was married four years ago and lived in Gopalganj, in Bihar, had come down to visit her folks a few days ago. Her son, Newton, was asleep when the tragedy struck.
Anita’s husband, Sanjay Tewari, a businessman based in Gopalganj, has been informed of the incident.
Deputy superintendent of police (town) Humayun Kabir said: “The deaths appear to have been accidental, but we are investigating the matter.”