| The wrecked taxi after it collided with a truck on Taratala Road on Wednesday morning. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
As the rest of the force was busy playing traffic-stopper for a visitor from Delhi, a traffic policeman was pocketing a hefty bribe of Rs 2 to allow a heavy truck into no-go zone Taratala Road on Wednesday morning.
The truck soon rammed into a taxi crammed with 10 passengers, killing eight of them. Seven of the dead belonged to the same family.
Among the dead were three children, of ages three to 10. The taxi crumbled under the impact of the collision. The driver of truck no. ADW 9567 fled, leaving it behind.
Among the dead were Mohammad Sahaban, 30, his wife Shabana Khatun, 20, their five-year-old daughter Saira and Dilwar Khan, Sahaban's brother from Darjeeling's Zakir Hussain Bustee. They had come to Calcutta to meet their relatives at Santoshpur.
The dead also included their Calcutta-based relatives Abdul Pappu Faiaz, his two daughters Farzeen, 10, and Zareen, three, and Rajeswar Sharma, 32, the taxi driver.
The three survivors were identified as Sahaban's mother Noorza Khatoon, her daughter and Pappu's wife, Mehebooba Khatun, and Noorza's other son, Syed Samir. The two women were admitted to SSKM Hospital. Their condition was stated to be critical.
The accident occurred around 10.35 am in front of gate no. 1 of the Calcutta Port Trust on Budge Budge-Taratala Road, a 10-minute walk from the Taratala crossing.
Witnesses confirmed that the policeman on duty took a bribe to allow trucks to move down Taratala Road, where heavy vehicles are barred from plying between 8 am and 8 pm.
'The taxi, carrying 10 passengers in violation of rules, swerved into the wrong lane while overtaking another car. The truck, speeding down from the opposite direction, caused the collision,' said Ranveer Kumar, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters).
Recalling the accident, survivor Samir said: 'We were to spend the day at Alipore zoo. When our taxi overtook a Maruti, a truck approached it from the opposite side. All I can remember is the left rear door, by which I was sitting, was thrown wide open under the impact of the collision.
'When I came to, the taxi was trapped beneath the undercarriage of the truck. Then they started taking out the bodies of my relatives.'
Bystanders and local residents rushed to the spot. Policemen posted at the Taratala crossing reached within 10 minutes. 'The taxi was a mangled mass of metal. We rescued the survivors with the help of the local people,' said Kumar. 'Five of them died on the spot, while the rest succumbed to their injuries in hospital.'
Joint commissioner of police (traffic) Banibrata Basu said: 'We are trying to identify the policemen on duty at the Taratala crossing.'
Back in Darjeeling, Zakir Hussain Bustee was stunned by the news and around 20 people have already left for Calcutta to attend the funeral.