An out-of-control trailer truck killed a woman and her toddler granddaughter as it smashed an 8ft-high wall behind a shanty along GT Road in Howrah’s Shibpur on Friday morning.
Chunks from the collapsed wall buried 50-year-old Asha Singh and her two-year-old granddaughter Priti while they were walking home from the market. A nine-year-old girl had a close shave in the shanty.
Witnesses said the driver of the 14-wheel trailer truck lost control after hitting a biker from behind. The truck mowed down a tree before smashing the boundary wall and coming to a halt.
The biker, 40-year-old Abdul Mannan, has been admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital with a broken right leg and head injuries. He was on his way to Shalimar.
“The trailer was empty and travelling at high speed. It suddenly careened towards the right following a front tyre burst. Before I could move out of danger, the trailer hit me. I was flung in the air and landed hard. I am lucky to be alive,” Mannan said at hospital.
Nishat Pervez, deputy commissioner of police, Howrah, said the driver has been arrested. Automobile experts would examine the truck to ascertain the cause of accident.
Residents responded to the accident with a roadblock for over an hour. Two police bikes were set on fire on GT Road, prompting a lathicharge to disperse the crowd.
The police said a case of rioting and arson has been started in connection with the bike burning.
People alleged that the accident was waiting to happen because the police seldom take action to rein in reckless drivers. “The situation has worsened over the past two years along GT Road, Kona Expressway, Andul Road and parts of Howrah near Vidyasagar Setu. Monster trucks ply on these roads every day and the drivers have scant regard for traffic rules,” said one of the protesters.
Sanjit Singh, who lost his mother and niece in the accident, said: “I was at home but wasn’t aware of the accident since we live a few blocks away from the site. I rushed to the spot after neighbours informed me about it. I pulled my mother and Priti out of the debris.”
Asha and Priti were taken to Howrah District Hospital but couldn’t be saved.
Nilam Singh, 9, was playing alone in her shanty when concrete and bricks from the collapsed wall fell on it.
“My husband was out for work and I had taken Rohan (son) to school, leaving Nilam alone in the room. I was horrified to find our home destroyed when I returned. My daughter managed to escape,” said mother Paramita Singh.
She said her traumatised daughter was speechless for more than hour.
Mannan, Sanjit and Paramita had one request: action against reckless drivers.
They and the residents of Howrah have a good reason to make the request: the city across the Hooghly has seen a spate of accidents that have left many dead and scores injured.
In September 2012, a speeding 13-wheeler truck veered into the wrong lane and crashed into a house in Baksara on the Kona Expressway.
In March this year, 10 people were injured when a man driving under the influence lost control of his truck and set off a Domino effect — hit a car, crushed a taxi, knocked down two pedestrians and rammed into parked motorcycles on Andul Road that connects Vidyasagar Setu with NH6. Four persons were maimed for life in the accident.