The forest track at Chilapata where the accident occurred; (right) Prabir Majumdar
A retired engineer on a Dooars safari died in the Chilapata forest on Tuesday morning when one tourist vehicle rammed into another because of sudden braking to avoid an elephant in the way.
Prabir Majumdar, 65, was out wildlife spotting in a Maruti Gypsy with wife Shikha and their neighbour Pradip Chowdhury a little after 6am when the accident occurred.
The car carrying the couple was the second among three vehicles moving in line inside the forest in Jalpaiguri district, about 600km from Majumdar’s Barrackpore home, when a kunki (trained elephant) came in the way.
Jalpaiguri police said the driver of the first vehicle slammed the brakes, forcing Majumdar’s car to halt abruptly. The third vehicle then rammed into the one in the middle from behind, throwing the retired engineer off his seat.
Majumdar, who had a cardiac bypass surgery about one-and-a-half years ago, became unconscious and was declared dead on arrival at an air force hospital in Hasimara, 15km away.
“He was in the rear seat on the right side. Our car rammed into the vehicle he was in and I saw him thrown off his seat. Majumdar’s neighbour, who was seated beside him, held him,” recounted Mintu Mukherjee, a tourist who was in the third vehicle.
Ten other passengers in the two cars involved in the accident suffered cuts and bruises on their hands and legs.
Mukherjee, a resident of Birati, said Majumdar, his wife and their neighbour had been staying in the same hotel at Jaldapara where he had checked in. “We met last evening and decided to take the safari together this morning,” Mukherjee said.
The group of 17 set out from their hotel in three vehicles around 6am. “We were on a road running through the forest when a kunki elephant with a mahout suddenly appeared on the track. I was in the first car and our driver braked all of a sudden,” recalled Amal Majumdar, who was part of the group.
Doctors said the cause of Majumdar’s death could be either cardiac arrest or internal injury. “Since he had had a bypass surgery, it is possible that the accident caused shock and cardiac arrest. He might also have died because of internal injuries,” critical care expert Subrata Maitra said.
Majumdar and his wife had left their apartment in the CMDA complex at Barrackpore for north Bengal last Sunday. “I remember his exact words before he left. Majumdar said he would return with plenty of photographs,” neighbour Nisith Baran Roy said.
The couple were childless and loved to travel to the hills and forests. Four months ago, Majumdar had visited Kashmir.