Calcutta, Aug. 27: An assistant sub-inspector of Bijpur police station and two others accompanying him died in an accident while allegedly chasing a speeding lorry to collect a bribe on the Kalyani-Barrackpore Expressway early this morning.
When the Ambassador in which the policeman was travelling blocked the lorry's way, it smashed into the car.
ASI Timir Chatterjee, 52, and his friends Biplab Nandi, 39, and Prabal Chowdhury, 58, died on the spot. The driver, Prasenjit Das, was seriously injured.
The driver of the lorry had allegedly refused to pay the bribe and sped away. On learning of the incident, another police jeep patrolling the highway rushed to the spot only to see the trio lying in a pool of blood and the driver of the car gasping for breath.
The police have denied any 'bribe angle' to the incident and said the driver of the Ambassador had lost control. However, witnesses have a different story.
Saurav Ghosh, the owner of a roadside tea stall at Chandua More, said he had watched the prelude to the accident. 'It was around 5 am when I opened my shop and saw Chatterjee and two others zoom past my stall. The trio sitting inside the car had their hands stretched out, beckoning to the lorry to pay up and proceed. This is the normal system here,' he said.
'But the driver of the lorry refused to oblige and I, along with a few others, saw the Ambassador give chase to the sand-laden lorry,' said Ghosh.
'People at the spot of the accident, about one and a half km away, told us that the Ambassador had overtaken the lorry, which was heading towards Barrackpore, and stood in its way,' Ghosh added.
Tarak Saha, who was having tea at the stall, said: 'I saw the Ambassador give chase and later I was told about the accident.'
However, according to the subdivisional police officer of Barrackpore, Sugata Sen, Chatterjee was a cardiac patient who suddenly developed chest pain this morning. Nandi and Chowdhury decided to take him to a Calcutta hospital from his home in Naihati. On the way, Sen said, the driver possibly dozed off and the car dashed against a tree, killing the three.
'There is no evidence to suggest that a lorry or a truck dashed against the Ambassador,' said Manoj Verma, additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas. 'It was a plain and simple accident with the car ramming into a tree at full speed. Preliminary investigation suggests that the driver lost balance. There is no other reason for the crash.'
Praveen Kumar, the superintendent of police (North 24-Parganas), said: 'I have asked my officers to find out the exact reason behind the incident.'
The injured driver has been taken to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital where his condition was stated to be critical.