| A raft with the rescue team on the Teesta. The car is below the raft. Picture by Janmejoy Sarker
Rambhi/Siliguri, April 5: A senior consultant with the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC)’s Teesta Low Dam Project was killed today when the vehicle he was travelling in went off the road and hurtled into the Teesta early this morning.
B.K. Parajuli, who was once known in media circles as the chief public relations officer of West Bengal State Electricity Board in Calcutta, was being driven in a Bolero by Bulbul, his regular driver, who miraculously survived the fall and was found unconscious on the river bank. He was rushed to North Bengal Medical College in a critical condition.
Parajuli, who had started from his home near Siliguri at 9 pm, was headed for the Teesta Low Dam Project (TLDP) III site in Rambi, 35 km away.
The accident occurred near Swetijhora, 7 km from Sevoke Bazaar and 30 km from Siliguri on NH 31A, the road that leads to Kalimpong and Gangtok.
As the vehicle approached a bend on the mountainous road a little after 10am, the driver failed to negotiate it and the vehicle crashed through the barrier. The Bolero hurtled 500 feet down the hillside into the Teesta.
When local people and rescue teams reached the spot, only the vehicle’s bonnet was visible above the water while Bulbul lay on the bank.
“He must have opened the door and jumped out before the car hit the water,” surmised A.K. Singh, the chief engineer of the TLDP IV located in nearby Kalijhora.
Though Parajuli’s body is yet to be recovered, the rescuers could see it inside the car.
“While mooring the vehicle with wires and ropes so that it didn’t get carried away by the current in the river, they saw the body inside,” the TLDP engineer said.
Humayun Kabir, the assistant superintendent of police, Kalimpong, said: “The official trapped inside the vehicle is reportedly dead.”
Rafts, cranes and other equipment have been brought in to retrieve the heavy SUV from the Teesta. However, the search was called off at 8pm. “Diminishing light forced us to stop work temporarily. We had almost pulled the car out, when one of the ropes gave away and it slid back into the water once more. We will resume the search again tomorrow,” said Kabir.
According to reports received late in the evening, a team of divers had left from Calcutta and will be reaching the spot tomorrow to carry out salvage operations.
Parajuli, who retired three years ago at the age of 60 from the WBSEB, was a resident of Agam Singh Giri Nagar near Pintail village on the outskirts of Siliguri. He had joined as a consultant to NHPC soon after, visiting the Teesta low dam sites on a regular basis.
“Like on other days, he had left for the site in the morning,” said his younger brother Hari Parajuli who, along with the eldest brother Bhojraj, had reached the site of the tragedy two hours after it took place.
“Who would have known that he would meet with such an accident,” Hari said. The siblings and other relatives appeared shocked.
Parajuli’s wife had died about 10 months ago after a fight with cancer. His son was not in Siliguri but has been informed and is on his way, a relative said.